Last year, an officer with the Richmond sheriff’s department claimed he had smelled marijuana near a W. Bacon St. apartment complex before spending about a month watching the area and obtaining a search warrant.
Virginia Union University student Maurice Neblett, now 25, lived at 531 W. Bacon St., building two, apartment 2120. The warrant was secured for 601 W. Bacon St., building two, apartment 2120 – but that didn’t stop Richmond police officers from breaking into Neblett’s residence and beating him bruised and swollen.
According to a civil lawsuit filed last week, Neblett was falling asleep in bed around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2014, when drug warriors kicked in his door, placed him in a chokehold, and “proceeded to strike [him] with their fists, feet, knees and blunt instruments which included, among interest and belief, the butt of a handgun.”
“After a 30-day investigation I would expect that they would get the address correct,” Neblett’s attorney Jonathan Arthur said. “[Neblett] suffered substantial bruising and swelling. We have reason to believe he was violently beaten.”
After what Neblett described as five to six minutes of being assaulted, the lawsuit claims an officer with a shaved head and scar underneath his eye whispered, “Who has the most power, us, or the Bloods?” before saying, “We should have done this to your brother but it does not matter because he will be gone for a very long time [and] you will too.”
Neblett says he asked the officers to take him to VCU Medical Center for treatment after the incident, but instead of treating his injuries, an officer responded to his request by asking his subordinates “who wanted to be an assaultee?”
No marijuana was seized from the residence, but police did take a lawfully purchased and legally registered firearm, the lawsuit says, and charged Neblett with felony assault of two officers.
Those charges were latter dismissed however, but Neblett says his lease was terminated and he was barred from the apartment complex as a result of the incident.
The lawsuit claims that in the ensuing months, Neblett suffered from anxiety, post-traumatic stress, loss of sleep and a “profound and insurmountable loss of trust in the state, the city and their law enforcement officials.”
Neblett says that he has never been affiliated with a street gang, and before the beating had applied for a job with the Richmond Sheriff’s Office. He continues to pursue a criminal justice degree at VUU.
The lawsuit claims Neblett’s civil and constitutional rights were violated, and alleges that Richmond police willfully engaged in negligence, malicious prosecution, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and unlawful search.
It seeks $2.3 million in damages.