3 years later, Richmond settles with man pepper sprayed through window

Richmond is still settling police misconduct cases tied to 2020 protests after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The City of Richmond has reached multiple out-of-court settlements in cases tied to a 2020 incident that involved police pepper spraying three people walking on the sidewalk and the man who caught it on video from his second-story apartment window.

Demonstrations calling for accountability in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020 erupted while the world also grappled with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Locally, protests in Richmond escalated in late May and June of that year, leading to curfews, clashes between protesters and police, arrests and businesses getting damaged and looted.

Richmond faced criticism over its police response to the protests, including the use of tear gas on peaceful protesters, leading to multiple settlements with demonstrators totaling more than $1 million and the ousting of the city’s police chief.

In one high-profile incident, a group of police officers were captured on video spraying three people in their faces multiple times as they walked by each other along West Broad Street near Goshen Street in the early morning hours of May 31, 2020.

Civil lawsuits accusing the officers of civil rights violations filed by the three people on the sidewalk said that the officers told them to “go home,” and one of them responded, “No, you go home,” before an officer used “pepper spray or some other chemical irritant” on them.

The man recording the encounter from his apartment, identified as Mikhail Smith in court filings, is heard in the video shouting and cursing at the officers. The video, which circulated online, then shows spray being fired up into Smith’s window. Smith is then heard coughing in the video.

Smith sued the city over the incident in July 2020, seeking $400,000 in damages, and court filings show an agreement was reached last November to dismiss the case after the city had tried to get thrown out for three years.

Records provided to 8News by the city attorney’s office show Richmond cut a $25,000 settlement check to Smith last September.

The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice after “the parties reached an acceptable agreement,” Gary Reinhardt, Smith’s attorney, wrote in an email to 8News. Cases dismissed with prejudice mean the plaintiff can’t refile the claims in another lawsuit.

The city also settled with the three people on the sidewalk who sued over the incident, records reviewed and obtained by 8News show, including a $15,000 payment to one of the women, identified as Destiny Sparks in court filings, in February 2022.

Court records show that settlement agreements were reached with the other two, identified as Charles Cosby and Kiara Derricott in court filings, but the city did not disclose the terms.

Petula Burks, a city spokesperson, did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. Richmond police did not share a comment on the city’s settlement with Smith.

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