Virginia Union Student sues Richmond police for 2014 assault

Maurice Neblett, a criminal justice major at Virginia Union University, is suing the Richmond Police department for $2.3 million, claiming an illegal search of his apartment, committed battery and common law conspiracy. The case has been ongoing since 2015.

“I’m here, I’m breathing, a lot of people that have been in similar situations aren’t here today,” Neblett said.

According to court papers, the police officers received a warrant for building two, apartment 2120 at 610 W. Bacon St. after an officer reported he smelled marijuana in the area.

This address doesn’t actually exist. Instead, the officers raided 531 W. Bacon St. – Neblett’s apartment.

Court papers describe the events in detail. On Feb. 14, 2014 Neblett awoke around 10:30 p.m. to police ordering him to put his hands behind his head. Blinded by their flashlights, Neblett obeyed the order but was still thrown off his bed and onto the floor where police officers hit him with fists, feet and blunt objects for five to six minutes. The officers then put Neblett in handcuffs and a chokehold.

According to Neblett, Richmond police officer Mark Sims whispered in his ear, “Who has the most power, us or the Bloods?”

Neblett reports he has never been associated with the Bloods, the gang Sims allegedly referenced.

“We should have done this to your brother, but it does not matter because he will be gone for a very long time,” Sims said. “You will too.”

Neblett was naked throughout the assault and eventually had to plead with officers to let him get dressed, according to court documents.

“We believe that the officers were motivated with a particular animus towards Mr. Neblett,” said Jonathan Arthur, Neblett’s lawyer.

Because he was being charged with a federal crime, Neblett was consequently evicted from his apartment. The incident left him homeless for several months, during which Neblett resorted to sleeping in his car.

Years later the night still haunts Neblett.

“I’m still in disbelief,” Neblett said. “I’m trying to figure out if I’m in a nightmare.”

Neblett said he believes the case is about more than his assault, but about making policy changes within the police system.

“This is bigger than me, I’m just a grain of salt,” Neblett said.

The Richmond Police Department declined comment, stating it is policy not to do so on ongoing cases.

“This is not a color bearing issue,” Neblett said. “It is important we support this because it could happen to anyone. We have to address again that no one is above the law and they have to be held accountable for their actions.”

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Amelia Heymann, Contributing Writer

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