RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Police Department has released bodycam footage of a traffic stop incident — involving an officer who used force after a suspect allegedly tried to grab his gun — after a cellphone video of the incident was shared across social media.
Shortly before 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, VCU Police had established a speed trap in the 300 block of West Main Street. An officer attempted to stop a vehicle that was observed driving at 50 mph in a 25 mph zone, according to police.
The bodycam footage captures the traffic stop. The driver — later identified as 31-year-old Paul Willis IV — exits his car and fails to follow the officer’s commands when he tells him to sit down. At one point, after repeated instructions, the officer grabs Willis and attempts to force him back into the vehicle.
“I guess I just noticed, like, when he grabbed his arm at first that was, that seemed kind of unnecessary,” said Emily Grinstead, a freshman at the university.
8News spoke with a number of VCU students who all had mixed reactions to the incident.
“Being told to sit down, being told to relax. I know it’s hard to relax with what’s going on with cops, but he should have sat down and listened,” said Nathan Alston, a freshman at the university. “Definitely [don’t] reach for the gun.”
According to VCU Police, Willis lunged forward and tried reaching for the officer’s firearm. In response, the officer hits Willis about five times. The officer can then be seen tackling Willis to the ground and subduing him.
According to police, both Willis and the officer were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment of minor injuries.
While Willis does not have ties to VCU, students told 8News that they hope the university and their police service will improve communication about incidents like this in the future.
“I’m surprised VCU hasn’t emailed us about that, they usually email us about everything,” Alston said.
Willis was charged with obstruction of justice and a felony count of assault and battery on a law enforcement officer. Willis is being held on bond with additional charges pending, according to police.
The incident remains under investigation and is pending adjudication in the Richmond City court system. There are no further details available at this time.