RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A video has gone viral, depicting what witnesses claim to be a police officer using excessive force, in an incident with a suspected shoplifter in a Family Dollar Monday afternoon.
The video, uploaded to YouTube at 8:45 p.m. Monday night, depicts an officer with blood dripping from his forehead, kneeling over a woman lying facedown and attempting to handcuff her as she cries out to onlookers for help.
Earlier in the day at 1:30 p.m., Richmond Police said that Officer Graham Lang responded to a call of an adult female customer who was suspected of shoplifting at Family Dollar on Westover Hills Boulevard.
Upon arrival, Lang was directed by management to the store’s checkout area where 33-year-old Alecia Nelson was located.
According to a Richmond Police brief of the incident, Lang attempted to “conduct a lawful detention” of Nelson by giving verbal commands regarding the need to detain her for further investigation. Nelson reportedly refused to cooperate with the officer’s commands and then began to “verbally and physically” resist, prompting Lang to use force.
However, a witness told 8News that Officer Lang did not explain the situation to Nelson before attempting to take her into custody.
“Once she went to leave, the only thing he stated to her was she was not leaving that store,” Joshua Carter, who happened to be shopping at Family Dollar at the time of the incident and caught it on camera, said. “He never said she was under arrest. He never read her Miranda rights or anything.”
Nelson was charged by Richmond Police with assaulting a law enforcement officer. She was not charged with shoplifting, the suspected crime that originally prompted Lang’s arrival.
Carter said he did not know Nelson when he recorded the video of her encounter with the police.
“The police and the supervisor was staring at her, so she asked them, like, ‘What’s going on?’” Carter said, adding that the officer told Nelson he would talk to her when she was finished checking out. “He never let her go out the door. He just attacked her from there, and things get — went haywire.”
Carter said that it appeared that Nelson paid for the products she had, and even had a receipt, but that the officer still tried to detain her.
“He aggressively grabbed her wrist and proceeded to throw it behind her back,” Carter said. “She asked him what was he doing, he forced her into a wall, and then an altercation went from there to where he slammed her.”
(Video Courtesy of Joshua Carter)
Carter told 8News that he has an open carry permit and had a weapon on him at the time of the incident. When he saw the altercation unfolding, he said that he decided to go outside and put his firearm in his car before returning to the store to film the incident.
“I didn’t want him to think that I was trying to harm him in any way, and I didn’t want him to pull out his firearm and possibly harm her or me or anybody else in the store,” Carter said. “I was critically thinking at the moment.”
According to Richmond Police, Lang called for backup assistance during the resistance from Nelson.
“Please, call 9-1-1,” Nelson said in the video. While continuing to film, Carter used the store phone to call for police backup, as well.
When backup arrived minutes later, they helped Lang bring Nelson to her feet and were able to handcuff her. As the second officer tended to Nelson, Lang began looking over her groceries.
In the video, Lang can be seen searching through a handbag.
According to Carter, Nelson’s arm and back were bruised and an earring was ripped from her ear as a result of the incident. Although Nelson did not speak with 8News on camera Wednesday, she did display her injuries, which were consistent with what Carter described and could be seen in the video.
“It’s just sad to see that all this trauma came from a cop that’s supposed to be protecting and serving us,” Carter said.
Richmond Police said they are investigating the use of force during this incident, and said Lang is cooperating with the internal investigation and will remain on duty.
Richmond Police encourage anyone with information to contact internal investigation by calling 804-646-0400 as well as the criminal investigation by calling 804-646-6733 with any additional information.