CLARIFICATION – the sequence of events during the traffic stop involving Lawrence Fenner and Newport News Police was as follows, according to Chief Steve Drew: 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.
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The chief of Newport News Police says his officers acted appropriately and will not be reprimanded, following the arrest of a local man that resulted in a struggle with officers. Video of the incident on social media has caused an uproar.
A press release from NNPD detailed the incident which occurred just before 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21.
According to police, the incident began as a traffic stop, in reference to a registration violation, in the area of 30th Street and Roanoke Avenue.
Officers approached the vehicle and began speaking with the driver, later identified as 31-year-old Newport News resident Lawrence Moe Fenner. According to Chief Steve Drew, officers became wary when Fenner reached toward the floor on the passenger side of the car.
Police say that the officers asked Fenner to step outside the vehicle, but he did not comply. Police did not clarify what those prior actions were in the release.
The officers then continued to give verbal commands, but Fenner still would not comply.
Concerned for their safety, the officers then attempted to remove Fenner from the vehicle and the struggle ensued, during which police say Fenner became non-compliant and physically resistant.
The officers were eventually able to get Fenner out of the vehicle, at which time he began physically assaulting the officers, police say.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Newport News Police Chief Drew said that given the situation, his officers “acted correctly.”
“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.
Drew says video on social media is misleading because of erroneous narration by the person recording, including claims that officers kicked Fenner and pulled their service weapons.
“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.
And Drew said the only firearm involved in the incident was the 9-millimeter pistol police found beneath the passenger seat.
The officers suffered minor injuries. During the assault, an officer deployed a taser, which struck Mr. Fenner, and police were then able to take him into custody.
Fenner’s wife is claiming physical abuse by Newport News Police. Drew said he would be happy to have a conversation with her. He said he will review body cam video from from three officers body cams who were involved in the incident.
Fenner was assessed by medics and then taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation.
Fenner is now facing multiple charges including 4 counts of assault on law enforcement, possession of a firearm by violent convicted felon, obstruction of justice with threats or force, carrying a concealed weapon, and fraudulent altering or forgery of license plates.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.