RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Newly released body-camera videos shed light on the Richmond Police Department’s response to protests centered around two Confederate monuments in June 2020, when demonstrators were teargassed without warning.

The city agreed to share a trove of materials with the Library of Virginia regarding the June 1, 2020, teargassing around the former Robert E. Lee Monument and former J.E.B. Stuart Monument as part of a federal lawsuit settlement with demonstrators.

An aerial image of demonstrators around the Jeb Stuart monument in June 2020. This image has been blurred because of the explicit profanity written by protesters.

The materials include body-cam videos from officers who responded, audio recordings, aerial surveillance and other documents.

Videos obtained and reviewed by 8News on Friday, July 22, show the moments before tear gas was deployed without warning on a large crowd of demonstrators around the Lee statue on June 1, 2020: officers using chemical irritants on people from close range, authorities being confronted by protesters, officers questioning the commands given to them and more.

In one of the videos reviewed by 8News, several officers in a vehicle can be heard criticizing the decision to engage with demonstrators near the Stuart statue.

Police were heard having the following exchange in the video above:

  • “We should have never done this to begin with,” one officer is heard saying.
  • “Nope, I don’t know why we engage these people,” one officer responds.
  • “I don’t think they ever gave any warnings or anything either,” another officer responds.
  • “I mean, who cares,” an officer answers.

Moments later, one of the officers in the vehicle began talking about a demonstrator outside. “And that dude in that pink sweatshirt right there, he and I are going to meet again someday,” the officer told the others in the car.

Another officer laughed and asked what the person in the pink sweatshirt said to him. “That I was a f—— p—-. That I don’t love America. All sorts of stuff,” the officer responded. “At some point, I have another couple years here. We’ll run into each other.” 

The videos reviewed by 8News also show many protesters talking with officers, telling them “this was peaceful,” and chanting “do the right thing” and “don’t shoot.”

Demonstrators near the Lee monument in Richmond in June 2020.

In the videos, protesters are heard cursing and yelling at officers. Some were seen throwing objects, such as water bottles, and tossing back tear gas canisters at officers after they were deployed near the Lee statue.

Lawsuits were filed on behalf of six demonstrators by Andrew Bodoh, an attorney at the civil rights and personal injury law firm Thomas H. Roberts & Associates PC, and a settlement was reached. The terms of the deal were not disclosed when the settlement was announced in February of this year, but the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit directed that the protective order in the case should be lifted in July.

As part of the settlement, the city also agreed to retract a June 2020 tweet from Richmond Police that said tear gas had to be used around the former Gen. Robert E. Lee monument to get officers who “were cut off by violent protestors” to safety.

A scene after demonstrators were teargassed by Richmond police in 2020

Other scenes in the released footage show officers being ordered via radio to form a “360 perimeter” around the monument as dozens drive toward the protest. Videos also show officers in that formation, encircling protesters who have their hands up at least several yards away, when officers fire the canisters without warning.

“There were no RPD officers cut off by violent protesters at the Lee Monument. There was no need for gas at the Lee Monument to get RPD officers to safety,” one of the department’s six tweets retracting the 2020 tweet said.

Spokespeople for the Richmond Police Department and Stoney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comments regarding the release of the materials to the library.