NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The city of Norfolk paid a $10,000 settlement to a teenager who was pepper-sprayed by two police officers while he was walking home from school, according to court records.
10 On Your Side discovered the settlement while investigating the Norfolk Police Department’s use of force on minors. Our investigation uncovered that NPD officers used force on youth more than 270 times since 2016, and that 86% of the time of those minors were Black.
One of those Black minors was the 16-year-old boy involved in the settlement. He was stopped by two Norfolk officers near 19th Street and Armistead Avenue in October 2018. The officers pepper-sprayed and handcuffed the teen. Part of the incident was caught on camera and posted to social media, prompting an internal investigation at the NPD.
The teen’s civil attorney, Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) and Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone disagree about the chain of events that led the officers to use force.
Scott said the teen had headphones on when the officers tried to stop him, and he did not hear them. Scott said the officers grabbed the teen, and he yanked away from them because he was startled. Boone said the teen hit one of the officers twice, then refused to follow their commands.
Boone said the teen was known to police, and the stop was part of an ongoing investigation into a string of more than 200 car larcenies in the area. The stop happened at 12:50 p.m., which was before area high schools let out for the day, so the officers also suspected the teen of truancy. Scott said the teen had permission to walk home from school.
“We had reasonable suspicion to approach that individual. In addition to that, at some point we developed probable cause to arrest the individual … I feel confident in that particular case, that there was nothing that we did that was not within policy,” Boone told 10 On Your Side during an Oct. 7 interview.
Scott said the teen was treated by EMTs and a local hospital for injuries sustained during the arrest. NPD’s use of force database lists the teen as uninjured during the arrest; however, the settlement filed in Norfolk Circuit Court confirms that the teen was injured during the stop.
The city settled with the teen in October 2019 to “compromise the claim for injuries” sustained in the arrest. The city did not admit any wrongdoing on the part of the NPD or the officers involved. The settlement also absolved the NPD officers of any civil litigation going forward.
To watch our use of force investigation and interview with Boone in its entirety, click here.
To look at the NPD’s use of force database, visit the city’s open data portal here.