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Former Charlottesville police officer moves to dismiss lawsuit

A former Charlottesville police officer has denied claims he violated musician LaQuinn Gilmore’s rights during a January incident and has asked for a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

The federal lawsuit was filed in April on behalf of Gilmore and alleges that six city police officers violated his First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights when he was thrown to the ground and injured during the Jan. 11 incident.

Soon afterward, Gilmore shared video of the incident and, eventually, the Charlottesville Police Department also released body camera footage.

Only one of the officers, Joseph Wood, is named in the complaint. Wood is no longer with the police department but the department has refused to identify the other officers involved.

The complaint furthers statements previously made by Gilmore that he was thrown to the ground, handcuffed and searched before being released. The interaction began after Gilmore pulled his car over to vomit due to sickness caused by an antibiotic he was prescribed for a hand injury, per the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, as a result of Wood’s actions, Gilmore suffered a closed head injury with concussion, a lower leg contusion and acute bilateral thoracic back pain. He was never charged with a crime.

“Shortly after calling for backup, Defendant Wood grabbed Mr. Gilmore and threw him to the ground face first. Defendant Wood also handcuffed and searched Mr. Gilmore while he continued to detain him,” the complaint reads. “Mr. Gilmore was released, without charges, when the patrol supervisor arrived on the scene.”

Following the incident, Gilmore filed an internal affairs complaint with the police department. An internal affairs investigation found that Wood had unlawfully detained Gilmore but denied various other claims, including excessive force.

In a March press conference, city Police Chief RaShall Brackney said the internal affairs investigation showed that Wood “failed to articulate or justify his reason” to Gilmore after he had disengaged from a conversation with Gilmore and then demanded to see Gilmore’s driver’s license after Gilmore made a comment about police.

At that same press conference, Brackney announced that both Wood and Officer Jeffrey Jaeger, who was convicted Dec. 11 of assault in an unrelated incident involving an arrest, were no longer with the department.

“Although both of these cases have been closed and the former officers are being held accountable, the harm they have inflicted will linger,” Brackney said. “That harm includes undermining the positive interactions and relationships so many of our officers have worked to establish.”

This week, Wood’s attorney filed an answer to Gilmore’s amended complaint, denying almost all of the facts as alleged by the plaintiff. The answer filing does not go into detail about most of the denials, as is procedurally typical for this type of filing.

According to Wood’s filing, he had “probable cause to stop and to believe that [Gilmore] committed a criminal offense in his presence and was entitled under the Fourth Amendment and Virginia law to investigate and even arrest [Gilmore] without a warrant.”

“The duration of any stop or seizure of [Gilmore] by [Wood] was reasonable and justified under the Fourth Amendment and justified by the ordinary incidents to the stop,” Wood’s answer reads.

Additionally, Wood argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity under federal law for all causes of action he is accused of, including unreasonable force, illegal search, false imprisonment, abduction and assault.

Wood also claims that Gilmore is not entitled to compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, costs or any other relief, and asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

No hearings are currently set for the case.


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