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VIDEO: Richmond Police Spit at or Near Detained Protester

Protesters at Lee Monument
Protesters returned to the Lee Monument Wednesday, the site of an "unwarranted" gassing by Richmond Police on Monday. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

*VPM News Intern Alan Rodriguez Espinoza reported this story.

Numerous videos captured Monday evening show Richmond police officers spitting in the direction of a detained protester after police fired gas canisters into a crowd on Monument Ave.

In a series of tweets, the Richmond Police Department said “slow motion analysis” of the video determined the officers were spitting into the grass, and not on the detainee. 

That detainee was Garrett Canning. They say they have seeked out legal counsel and are not commenting on whether the officers’ saliva actually landed on their body at this time.

“Plenty of people are saying ‘Oh, I can tell from the angle that the spit didn’t land on the detainee,’ but why on God’s green earth were they spitting so close to me in the first place?” Canning said.

They say they were handcuffed in a cloud of gas leading up to the events in the videos.

“At no point did they ever say anything to me. Nobody read me my rights. Nobody told me what was going on or what they were doing or what I was being detained for or what was going to happen next," Canning said.

While video shows Canning restrained and in police custody, RPD has told numerous sources no arrests were made Monday evening. They have not responded to VPM’s request for an exact number of arrests and detentions carried out Monday.

Canning says they were let go minutes after the crowd dispersed and were not charged with anything. 

“I’m still alive. If I wasn’t white, I don’t think I would be,” Canning said. “That officer had an assault rifle pointed at my head in the middle of a tear gas cloud. He could have done anything and said anything about it.”

The Richmond Police Department has not returned VPM’s inquiries on whether these allegations are being investigated or whether the officers involved will face repercussions.

One of the people who captured the officers spitting on video is Carly Romeo. She says the officers seemed to be “cracking jokes” and spitting on Canning because “they thought it was funny.”

“I don’t personally think it matters if their spit touched this person or if it just fell within a few inches of this person,” Romeo said. “We are in a global pandemic that involves a deadly virus that is passed through spit, so I don’t see how that is a defense of what they did.”

Canning says they will quarantine and will not participate in demonstrations for at least 10 days out of precaution, because of COVID-19. 

“I have to assume that I’ve been infected so that means I can no longer be out participating and protecting people, handing out water and medical supplies,” they said. “I’m stuck at home. It’s frustrating that I can’t be where I want to be, helping how I want to help.”

RPD has not responded to our questions on whether spitting violated the department’s guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19.