RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More than a month after the fatal police officer-involved crash that ultimately claimed the lives of two teenagers, the case has been handed over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond.
8News spoke with Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin over the phone Thursday morning. She confirmed that her office had received the investigative report on the incident from the Richmond Police Department (RPD), and that they were in the early stages of their review. She noted that, based on forensic evidence, video and witness testimony, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will work toward a decision on whether any individuals should be charged, and if so, with what. That information would then be presented to a grand jury.
“While we do not know how the Commonwealth will proceed at this time, we believe they will go where the investigation leads as well,” RPD said in a release. “Both families have been made aware that the investigation is now in the hands of the Commonwealth.”
8News had previously spoken with the families of 19-year-old Tracey Williams and 18-year-old Jeremiah Ruffin, both of whom lost their lives as a result of the April 7 crash. RPD Chief Gerald Smith said that Tracey Williams was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the car in which she was a passenger. She was reportedly pronounced dead at the scene.
Jeremiah Ruffin was left fighting for his life after the incident. But he passed away on April 20.
“We received the news that Tracey Williams was dead at the scene and they transported her body to the hospital at VCU,” Candice Ruffin, Jeremiah’s mother, told 8News at the time.
When the Ruffins arrived at the hospital, Candice said she was horrified to see the state her son was in.
“We had to make a decision after his last CAT scan,” she said. “His brain had protruded outside of the skull, only to get worse and not better. So they told us that he wouldn’t be able to walk or even move or understand anything, and he would have to have a tracheotomy to be able to breathe. So we had to make that decision for him.”
Candice told 8News Wednesday night that she and her husband, Clarence, would be headed to RPD to see video of the incident for the first time.
When she spoke with 8News over the phone Thursday evening, she said that the video was silent, so she couldn’t hear whether sirens were on. She also said that the video was not body-worn camera video, and was instead taken from such a distance that she could only see the moment of impact of the cars, but not whether police had their emergency lights on.
8News has requested video of the crash — including a body-worn camera, surveillance and dash camera — from RPD and the City of Richmond Department of Public Works (DPW). However, RPD said the video is a part of the ongoing investigation, and DPW said the mechanism atop the stoplights at the intersection of Bells and Castlewood Roads does not record video.
“The units installed on the mast arms of this intersection are for vehicle detection purpose only, and no video recording is capture thru this unit,” the department said in a statement to 8News.
“We are asking for help,” Chief Smith said back on April 8. “Anyone who may have witnessed this incident, or if anyone owns a camera in the area that could provide information, we’re asking you to actually give us a call with that information.”
At this stage in the investigation, information has not been released to the public about how fast either vehicle was traveling, which side of the intersection had a red light, and whether the RPD officers who were responding to a different reported crime at the time had their emergency lights and sirens on as they went through the intersection. Chief Smith was asked about this issue at a press conference held the day after the crash.
“They had an authorization to run blue lights and sirens,” he said. “We know that when these vehicles entered into the intersection, the passenger was ejected and the police vehicle was knocked off the road, into two poles and coming to rest with a fence.”
At the time, Chief Smith said the officers were in stable but serious condition. An RPD spokesperson has since confirmed that both officers have been released from the hospital.