Chesterfield County, Va., Police Say ‘Facts Matter’ After Violent Arrest Video Goes Viral. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them

Illustration for article titled Chesterfield County, Va., Police Say ‘Facts Matter’ After Violent Arrest Video Goes Viral. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Believe Them
Screenshot: NBC 8

Despite the fact that a viral video seems to show none of this, a 19-year-old was shocked by a Taser and taken to jail after Chesterfield County, Va., police officers say the teenager resisted arrest and assaulted an officer.


Elkanah A. Odembo Jr. was charged Tuesday with assault on a law enforcement officer, defective equipment and three counts of obstruction of justice with force after what the Chesterfield County Police Department described as a violent event.

But a now viral video seems to show what preceded the event.

The video begins with the officer asking Odembo to step out of the vehicle. When Odembo refuses and the woman holding the camera asks why the cop is pulling on Odembo, the officer replies, “Because he is not complying with me and he keeps trying to step out of the vehicle.”

But he just said ... never mind.

The police allege that all of this happened because of a broken brake light. (Have you ever been asked to exit your vehicle because of a broken light?) The video ends when Odembo exits the vehicle.

After the video went viral, the chief of the Chesterfield County Police Department, Col. Jeff Katz, sent out a tweet saying the video didn’t tell the entire story:


According to NBC 12, the department issued a full statement explaining its version of events:

The officer attempted to stop a vehicle in the area [of] Hollow Wood Court. The vehicle pulled into a driveway in the 3400 block of Hollow Wood Court. As the officer approached the vehicle, the driver had the car door open to exit the vehicle. The officer asked the driver for his identification. The officer told the driver he had been stopped because a tail light was out on the vehicle, and the officer had received information that the occupants of the vehicle had been gesturing and yelling things at a school bus.

The driver did not have his ID, and the officer began to take his information (name, date of birth, etc.). The driver said he didn’t see a problem and attempted to exit the vehicle, and the officer told him to stay in the vehicle. The driver continued to not cooperate with the officer, so the officer told the driver he was being detained and asked him to step out of the vehicle. The driver then refused to exit the vehicle. The officer repeatedly directed the driver to exit the vehicle and attempted to remove the driver from the vehicle; the driver resisted.

At one point, a passenger in the vehicle exited the car and the officer ordered her back into the vehicle. The driver then exited the vehicle as he was being pulled by the officer; he pushed past the officer and fled around and then into the residence. The officer pursued the driver. The officer caught up to the driver and the two engaged in a physical altercation as the driver resisted being taken into custody. Other officers arrived on scene to help take the driver into custody, and the driver continued to resist, at one point re-entering the residence.

The driver was Tased and taken into custody. He continued to passively resist as officers escorted him from the house. The officer who conducted the traffic stop received non-life-threatening injuries during the altercation and was taken to an area hospital.

The driver, identified as Elkanah A. Odembo Jr., 19, was arrested and charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, three counts of obstruction of justice with force, and defective equipment.


The department said that the cop received non-life-threatening injuries and it will review the bodycam footage worn by the officers involved.


I don’t believe the police. Here’s something you should know:

On Sunday, Feb. 4, a pair of white police officers for Chesterfield County pulled over a car with two 18-year-old freshmen from the HBCU Virginia State University.


Accounts differ on what happened next, but they all agree on the following facts: The lawmen accused the driver of the vehicle of rolling through a red light and ordered the students out of the car because the officers said they noticed the smell of marijuana. When the policemen asked if either of the students was carrying a weapon, one of the boys told the cops that he had a pocketknife.

Then the officer pulled his gun.

The cops told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the boy “reached for his waistband and an officer pulled a gun.” The mother of one of the boys involved says her son was disturbed by the incident, even though the police say they did nothing wrong and the boys seemed fine.


Clearing up this discrepancy should be easy because both officers on the scene were wearing body cameras. There is only one problem:

Chesterfield County won’t release the footage.

The mother of that child issued a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of the officers’ video from that evening. The Chesterfield County Police Department responded that it was not required to release the video if there was an ongoing criminal investigation. Then a spokesman for the county later said in a statement that “internal investigations, including those initiated by community complaints, are exempt from FOIA, and it is the department’s practice not to release information related to those investigations as they are personnel matters.”


It has been three months, and the same Police Department that arrested Elkanah A. Odembo Jr. has not released the footage from the Feb. 4 incident for two reasons:

One, the police claim that the incident is still under investigation and that they are not legally required to release video in cases that are under investigation. Meanwhile, no one was charged during the Feb. 4 incident. The police didn’t issue a citation or hand out a ticket. The only thing they could possibly be investigating three months later is their assertion that they smelled marijuana in the car. Maybe they have noses that go back in time.


The second reason they have not released the video is that the Jeffrey Katz who wrote that previous tweet from the police in the Odembo case believes that the child’s mother and, by proxy, her employer is “anti-law enforcement.”

The mother of the person a Chesterfield County cop pointed a gun at on Feb. 4 is The Root’s deputy managing editor, Yesha Callahan.


So don’t ever expect to see the bodycam footage of Elkanah A. Odembo Jr. If the police treat it like they’ve treated other videos, Odembo’s case will be “under investigation” for a long time.

But, as Col. Jeffrey Katz said:

Facts matter.

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Even Steven

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