Multiple charges set aside against man involved in viral Newport News traffic stop video

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Several charges against a man who was involved in a struggle with Newport News police officers in June have been set aside.

31-year-old Lawrence Fenner appeared in court Thursday morning.

Fenner was originally charged with 4 counts of felony assault on law enforcement, and possession of a firearm by a violent convicted felon. He also faced misdemeanor charges of obstruction of justice with threats or force, carrying a concealed weapon, and fraudulent altering or forgery of license plates.

On Thursday, 3 of the assault on law enforcement charges and the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon charge were nolle prossed.

The remaining felony assault on law enforcement charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. The remaining misdemeanor charges have been suspended for two years, pending good behavior from Fenner.

The charges stemmed from an incident in late June which was caught on camera by nearby residents and caused an uproar on social media among community members.

Following that incident, the Chief of Newport News Police issued a statement to the public saying his officers “acted appropriately and will not be reprimanded.”

The incident began as a traffic stop, in reference to a registration violation, in the area of 30th Street and Roanoke Avenue.

According to Chief Steve Drew, the sequence of events during the traffic stop involving Fenner and Newport News Police was as follows: Fenner leaned toward the passenger side; officers spoke with Fenner for several minutes; officers gave him several commands to exit the vehicle; the struggle followed.

“The officers did act within the department policy and guidelines, they follow the law, instructing someone to step out of the vehicle, even explaining to him why,” said Chief Drew. “I can understand the concerns of the community. When we watched the video here, I had questions. (Fenner) was never kicked. There was never a foot that came in contact, but there were two to three knee strikes.”

The “knee strikes,” Drew says, are a police tactic when an officer strikes the upper leg of a person with their knee to get them to stop resisting.

During the assault, an officer deployed a taser, which struck Fenner, and police were then able to take him into custody.

Fenner was assessed by medics and then taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation. The officers suffered minor injuries.

Lawyers representing Fenner told 10 On Your Side’s Hayley Milon they now intend to file a civil lawsuit against Newport News police regarding how Fenner was treated during the incident.

His next court date has been set for Nov. 13, 2024.

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