RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Black leaders in Virginia want the state’s attorney general to take over the investigation into the death of a man who was shocked repeatedly by police with stun guns, saying they are frustrated no decision has been made about whether to charge the officers.
This undated image provided by Gwendolyn Smalls shows, Linwood R. Lambert Jr. who died in police custody in May of 2013 after being repeatedly stunned by police. No charges have been filed against the officers and they have said their use of force was necessary(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from across the state will gather Saturday to call on Attorney General Mark Herring to step in for Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin, who has been reviewing the death of 46-year-old Linwood R. Lambert Jr. for two years.
“We want to know why it is taking so long for the commonwealth attorney to move forward on this,” said Kevin Chandler, president of the local NAACP branch and pastor in South Boston, a town of about 8,000 in southern Virginia.
A spokesman for Herring said that criminal cases are the generally the exclusive responsibility of local prosecutors and the attorney general doesn’t have the authority to take over a case. But he said his office has reached out to Virginia State Conference NAACP leadership to see how they can help address their concerns.
“The video of the encounter is very troubling, and the matter clearly deserves a thorough, deliberate investigation and a prompt and just resolution,” spokesman Michael Kelly said in an email.
The NAACP leaders are also seeking an immediate dismissal of the officers, Chandler said.
Videos of the officers shocking Lambert, who was Black, were released this week and have renewed interest in the case. Lambert’s family filed $25 million lawsuit against the police department and three officers in April.
The videos show three South Boston police officers using stun guns on Lambert multiple times after they took him into custody and brought him to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. He ran from the officers at the hospital, and instead of taking him to the ER, they took Lambert to jail.
An ambulance later brought him back to the same hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy report said that Lambert died of “acute cocaine intoxication.”
An attorney for the officers has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press. The department has said in court documents that the use force was necessary because Lambert had become violent, kicking out a window of the patrol car and running away.
Virginia State Police investigated in 2013 and turned the results over to Martin, who said Thursday that she will take as much time as is necessary to reach the correct decision.
Steven Benjamin, a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the investigation is taking unusually long, but that it’s possible that the prosecutor is hoping that the lawsuit will produce additional information.
Joe Messa, who’s representing Lambert’s family, said Friday that the videos are in Martin’s possession and he intends to provide more information that “will further shed light on the facts and what occurred that early morning, and further warrant her taking some immediate action.”
Associated Press reporter Kathy Matheson contributed to this report from Philadelphia.
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