Albemarle County's chief of police, Colonel Steve Sellers, is reacting to his officers making a critical mistake. A judge said the officers improperly crossed the line into Charlottesville and ended up shooting a suspect, who will no longer face charges for assaulting an officer.
Last May, two Albemarle officers went to Birdwood Court after suspecting Josue Salinas Valdez of a hit-and-run in the county. That’s when they say Valdez violently resisted arrest, even attempting to injure an officer with his own baton. But since then, Judge Paul Peatross dropped the felony charges of malicious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer and assault and battery of a law enforcement officer.
Sellers says his department is always looking into whether its officers can better follow policies and procedures. Sellers says, after an internal review following the shooting, both officers were found to have followed standards of conduct that apply.
"The issue on whether or not the officers were justified on the level of the use of force used has already been heard by a Charlottesville grand jury and that grand jury has already rendered an opinion that the officers were justified in the amount of force that they used," Sellers said.
But the court’s ruling said because those two officers improperly crossed the line into the city, they lost their status as officers, and the policemen were, at that point, not technically officers and instead, just private citizens.
“We are absolutely examining the far-reaching implications of the ruling and whether procedures need to be re-evaluated and reviewed,” Sellers said.
Valdez now faces only two charges: a felony count for failing to stop at the scene of an accident and a misdemeanor DUI offense.
Sellers says, though the criminal investigation into the two officers' conduct cleared them, an administrative investigation was still pending. But he would not say, in light of the judge's ruling, whether the officers' conduct would be re-examined as if they were civilians.
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