Jury Rules Against County Police in Shooting

Today a Charlottesville jury awarded $4.5M to the family of a man killed by police at Squire Hill in 1997, Liesel Nowak reports for the Daily Progress. Twenty-six year-old Frederick Gray was unarmed when fighting with police after they entered his home. They attempted to subdue him with pepper spray and a baton, but police said that he had incapacitated three of the four officers and the remaining officer was forced to shoot and kill him. Sgt. Amos Chiarappa had previously come out on the winning end of a civil trial in 2003 and was even cleared by police.

The case pitted well-known local attorney Debbie Wyatt, who argued that there was a racial component to the case (given the the victim was black and the officers were all white), against Sen. Mark Obenshain, who argued that the inconsistencies in the case did not merit ruling against the officer. Obenshain was elected to the 26th District (in the valley) in 2003. His sister stepped down this week as chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, and their father was a powerful and well-known Republican leader in the state until his 1978 death in a plane crash.

14 thoughts on “Jury Rules Against County Police in Shooting”

  1. Sounds like a bad deal for that cop. I wonder what the jury believed or who they think is going to clear out crazed maniacs from their apartments.

  2. This guy was not “gunned down” for no reason. Have you ever fought with a guy where it took five or six folks to get them under control?…I have…on the RESCUE SQUAD and in the hospital. I know this officer too, and he is not a “hot head” at all.

    Rage can make someone go off even without drugs. I suspect that the officers probably followed “PC” doctrine, not using enough physical force from the start, which might have resulted in the need for the ultimate final force..just my 02. Wyatt has finally won a round in her crusade against local law enforcement and it will probably result in a heck of a lot slower response to domestic calls. I know this result would give me pause.

    We MISERABLY pay these guys to protect us, and they sometimes have to fight to go home to their families and not to wind up in a pine box…think about that.

  3. The shooting occured in 1997. So, it has taken almost 10 years to see it through to its conclusion?! Ridiculous. The people who really win, here, are the attorneys.

  4. I think this is a victory for the shooting victim’s family and the rest of us in the general public – sure the Dept. can cover up excessive force and officers can make claims of “PCP and Meth crazed super-addicts”, but at the end of the day, either you’re in really pathetic shape when 4-5 of you (jeeperman, aren’t you the same guy who posts as webjeep on all the police forums?) can’t subdue a single guy.

    I’m placing my money on a bunch of Barney Fifes getting a tad overzealous and pulling a “knock down the door” raid, far over-escalating the situation. All of a sudden it wasn’t like the movies and this one fought back. Somebody crapped their pants and whipped out a gun and fired in a panic rather than taking time to assess the situation. As the cops are so fond of saying, the officers “got off on a technicality”, and now a jury of our peers (as in, folks who are not part of the “Justice” system) have rendered some measure of justice.

    Good for Deborah Wyatt. Hey iknowcville, maybe if the police can get it together and actually demonstrate a little competence by catching the serial rapist, we could focus on that prosecution instead of rectifying police mistakes and incompetence.

    It is dumb to resist an officer in the course of his duty, no matter how incompetently and in violation of one’s rights his performance of that duty is; Gray paid for that stupidity with his life – the ultimate price. Chiarappa should be grateful that he isn’t in jail; this judgement will ensure that he’s not a cop any longer, and that’s appropriate, at a minimum.

    I fail to see the relevance to Obenshein’s political history to the specifics of this case. It is certainly true that Republicans pay far greater lip service to authoritarians than the Dems do.

  5. I only hope that if and when they do catch that animal that Debbie shows some restraint and does not sue the victims of the attacks like she has done in the Agee rape case.

  6. I only hope that if and when they do catch that animal that Debbie shows some restraint and does not sue the victims of the attacks like she has done in the Agee rape case.

    She doesn’t sue people. She represents clients, as do all such attorneys.

  7. I only hope that if and when they do catch that animal that Debbie shows some restraint and does not sue the victims of the attacks like she has done in the Agee rape case.

    If the police arrest the right person, there would be no need to sue. In the Agee case, the victim identified an innocent person as her attacker, and the police arrested him based on that. He’s suing for defamation and malicious prosecution. Clearly he was defamed since he was publicly announced as a rapist when in fact he was not. I’m not sure what’s behind the claim of malicious prosecution. It’s surprising that the police aren’t being sued as well, actually. He was arrested on her word, but the cops must have believed her word. Even though she probably claimed to be “positive” about her identification, apparently she made a mistake. The wrongly accused man shouldn’t be required to pay for her mistakes or for a crime somebody else committed, should he?

  8. A lot of the challenge is perception vs reality for rape in general.

    It’s perceived to be a he said/she said crime which is frequently alleged when it hasn’t actually taken place. The statistics actually indicate that rape is no more likely to be lied about by the victim than burglary or other crimes. Yet we still have this perception that many if not most alleged rapes are bogus.

    It’s also a crime where the victim still is rather blamed for its occurance — relieving the criminal of some portion of their culpability.

    Add in the fact that the weapon of choice in most rapes is a penis and we become terribly confused. We don’t seem to have the same problem when someone uses a baseball bat to beat someone: we immediately understand that the game of baseball is not implicated in the crime, but we can’t quite find the differentiating line between sex and rape.

    The blur of blaming the victim, etc makes rape the most underreported crime we’ve got.

    Now toss in the realization that eye-witness testimony is in all cases much less reliable than we generally believe. I know nothing about this particular case, but police will rarely move solely on an eye-witness’s word alone: there’s usually some corroborating evidence.

    So the police arrested the wrong person. If we define defamation simply as arresting the wrong person, we will produce an horrific chilling effect on all law enforcement. The mere existance of this particular civil suit is already helping to perpetuate the underreporting of rape: yet another horror lurking for the actual victim to navigate.

  9. I don’t think the police really can be sued in the Agee case – you’d have to show they knew better (knew Agee was lying about the particular suspect) and still went ahead. I think the case was weak, but without the exculpatory DNA evidence, this guy would have been screwed. I’m guessing that both the police and DA are really feeling embarrassed by their inability to get someone, so they’re looking to make it stick the first chance they get – that is not the same thing as delivering justice. I don’t know what the malicious prosecution is about either, but I’d guess it means the DA’s office really tried to play hardball until they were forced to fold by the court. Perhaps an attorney can enlighten us on that area of the law.

  10. I have no idea who webjeep IS cvillelib, so you are mistaken. I certainly DO NOT defend the police in wrong doing but Chiarappa is NO “Barney Fife”. If indeed some errors in judgement or training occured then I see no problem with compensatory damages, but 1 million for punitive is extreme because as stated before, Gray was NOT just “gunned down” for no reason.

  11. jeeperman – it was just a guess – you come across as very much pro-police in general.

    I wasn’t there, and neither were you, so it’s very hard to say what this guys actions were. Any time four officers have to shoot an un-armed man in order to subdue him, they’re incompetent in training or fitness.

    What exactly are the appropriate compensatory damages for someone’s life? Your comments suggest you think this is a “cost of doing business” problem, and Gray’s life wasn’t worth 4.5 million. I think the 1 million is actually pretty cheap for the “message it sends” – isn’t that the other popular law-enforcement justification for heavy-handed tactics – show ’em we won’t tolerate it?

  12. What exactly are the appropriate compensatory damages for someone’s life?

    If the insurance companies were deciding it would probably be a combination of the expected “average life span” multiplied by the potential “annual yearly earnings” over that period of time.

    Of course to the person losing their life the answer should be “Priceless” and to a person’s family it’s that or “As much money as you can get.”

    Bottom line everyone loses when something like this happens. Especially if they’re trying to collect the award from the police department and not the individual officers (even then I can’t imagine any police officer who would be able to pay that award).

  13. Geez–can we have some clarifications here? Debbie Wyatt is representing Chris Matthew, who is suing the woman who (falsely) accused him of raping her. The man who actually raped her is John Henry Agee (well, maybe allegedly actually raped her–I don’t know if he’s been convicted yet).

    The case has nothing to do with the serial rapist; Agee is not the serial rapist, and neither is Matthew. Debbie Wyatt is not suing any of the victims of the serial rapist.

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