VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach’s police chief addressed a January traffic stop by one of his officers that was recorded on a cell phone. Since posted on Facebook, the citizen video has gone viral.
The officer’s use of force was called into question when video from his stun gun and the citizen video showed him pepper spraying a 17-year-old boy and then stunning him twice. Thursday was the first time Virginia Beach police say they saw the cell phone video of the traffic stop.
During a press conference Friday, Police Chief Jim Cervera said the incident had been under investigation since January, but upon seeing the citizen video, the department had put the officer on administrative duty.
10 On Your Side asked Cervera if, after seeing the video, he thought the force used was necessary.
“I’m going to reserve the final judgement in that,” Cervera said. “There are some things that I saw in that, which I do not feel comfortable with.”
10 On Your Side asked Cervera why he felt that way.
“I’m going to stop, at this point, because now we are getting into the final,” Cervera explained. “I said, ‘give me another week.’ I’ll have all my facts in front of me. Right now, I’m giving you the best information I can with what I know at this particular time.”
10 On Your Side also asked Cervera about the allegation that an officer involved in the traffic stop tried to delete the video from the citizen’s cell phone.
The video recording appears to end when an officer shuts off the cell phone camera. Courtney Griffith, the cell phone owner and driver of the vehicle involved in the traffic stop, said when she got her phone back from police, the video had been deleted. However, she was able to recover it from the deleted file in her phone.
Cervera said his internal affairs office was looking into that possibility. “I’d have to contact the Commonwealth’s attorney to see if that’s tampering with evidence,” he said.
Chief Cervera concluded the press conference by saying the investigation should be wrapped up sometime next week.
Mayor Will Sessoms posted this response on his Facebook page Saturday morning:
“Yesterday, staff informed me of the video from a Jan. 10 traffic stop involving Virginia Beach police. The Police Department has been investigating this use of force, as it should, since the officer involved in the incident provided his report on the night it happened. I trust our police to fully investigate all the facts, including video from the officer’s TASER camera, and to take appropriate action. Chief Cervera indicated he will receive the complete investigation briefing by the end of next week.”
You can count on 10 On Your Side to bring you the results of the investigation as soon as they are made available.