CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The former Richmond police officer sentenced this week for assaulting another law enforcement officer will face no jail time, if he adheres to the conditions of the suspended sentences handed down by a Chesterfield General District Court judge.
Shwarlyn Eli Arriola, Jr., 25, was arrested and charged back in July with felony assault on a law enforcement officer and misdemeanor obstruction. The charges stemmed from an incident at a large party at the Cultural Center of India, where two off-duty Chesterfield County Sheriff’s deputies were providing security. Arriola, employed by the Richmond Police Department (RPD) since Dec. 7, 2020, was also off-duty at the time.
According to a Chesterfield County Police Department (CCPD) spokesperson, officers in that jurisdiction had responded to the 6600 block of Ironbridge Parkway, the location of the Cultural Center, between Iron Bridge Road and Ironbridge Boulevard, at approximately 10:30 p.m. on July 2 for reports of a shooting at a party where more than 100 people were in attendance. On scene, authorities said they found a juvenile male in a bathroom with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Four teens have since been arrested and charged in that juvenile’s death.
Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard said two of his deputies were there in an off-duty capacity when the murder happened.
“They were both trying to save the life of the subject who ended up dying, and while they were performing life-saving measures on him, they heard the other shots ring out when they ran out and encountered the man shooting the gun,” he said. “The assault regarding our deputy was when he was taking the person who fired the other weapon into custody and he was shoved at least twice.”
On Dec. 16, just three days before his latest court appearance, Arriola resigned from RPD. He had been on unpaid leave with the department since July. But Dana Schrad with the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police said that wouldn’t necessarily impact whether he gets decertified as a law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“The law has changed now so that if you do resign in lieu of termination, it’s still a basis for decertification,” she said. “You can’t really avoid decertification by resigning from your job if your conduct has been one that falls under the standards of conduct.”
Decertification is handled by the Department of Criminal Justice Services. 8News reached out to the department for comment on the next steps for Arriola but has not received a response.
“Decertification means that you are not allowed to serve as a certified law enforcement officer in the commonwealth,” Schrad said. “After a few years, you actually have a basis for coming back and appealing to get your certification back, and in some situations, that’s a possibility. In others, it may not be so. We have not had too many officers that have come back after, say, three or five years and get their certification back.”
Arriola was sentenced Monday to a 12-month suspended sentence on each of his two charges and fined. However, the felony assault on a law enforcement officer charge — which carries a mandatory minimum of six months behind bars in Virginia — was downgraded to misdemeanor assault and battery. 8News reached out to the Chesterfield County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for clarification on this change but has not received a response.
“We have expanded the decertification law in Virginia to include conduct that is really unbecoming and unprofessional for a law enforcement officer, and that needs to be defined more clearly and of the standards of conduct,” Schrad said. “But it doesn’t require necessarily even a conviction.”
Arriola pled no contest to the reduced charges, which does not equate to an admission of guilt, although it is recorded in court records as “guilty.”
“One of the things we really strive for is to hire good, professional officers, but also to provide them the services — whether that’s mental health services, whether that’s any kind of assistance they need — to be able to cope on the job,” Schrad said. “They face a lot of trauma, and sometimes, that trauma then plays out in the form of inappropriate conduct.”