Petersburg teen who claimed police brutality will do community service for incident last June

Devin Thomas and family.

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — The teen who accused a Petersburg Police officer of attacking him in a case of police brutality was convicted Thursday for two charges in connection to the incident.

Devin Thomas was found guilty on one charge of disorderly conduct and one charge of resisting arrest.

The 19-year-old claimed that he was filming a video when Officer Vance Richards approached him last summer, knocked his phone out of his hand and assaulted him for filming.

“I wasn’t doing anything but recording and I was attacked by police,” Thomas told 8News in July of 2014. “They made me look like a criminal, had blood rushing down my face.”

In the video, you can see the officer approach Thomas and his phone falls to the ground.

Today in court, the officer involved in the incident spoke for the first time. Officer Richards described a tense scene with dozens of angry residents as he responded to a call at the Petersburg East apartment complex last June.

Richards told the judge that many of the residents eventually calmed down, but that Thomas continued to yell and curse at officers.

The officer said he asked Thomas to stop yelling at least ten times and as things escalated. The officer attempted to arrest Thomas, but he resisted, Richards said.

After more 30 minutes of testimony and cross examination from Thomas’ attorney, Judge Robert Beasley found Thomas guilty.

Thomas received 12 months behind bars for one charge and six months for the other, but had all of it is suspended — on the condition that he behaves well and does 80 hours of community service, 40 hours for each charge.

Judge Beasley had stern words for Thomas in court.

“You were this close to being charged on felony assault of an officer. You are walking a tight rope.”

Judge Beasley went on to say if he ever sees Thomas in court again, he will not be as lenient.

“I won’t hesitate to revoke your jail time,” the judge said.

After the trial, 8News anchor Ava-joye Burnett asked both Thomas and Officer Richards how the two felt about the decision.

“I ain’t happy about it,” Thomas said.

When asked why, Thomas replied, “Because I feel like I am innocent.”

Gray Collins, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney in Colonial Heights, said that he didn’t want to say too much following court.

“I just don’t want to make a comment, because he may even take a jury up there and I just don’t want to taint any of the jurors in Petersburg. He deserves a fair trial just like any other defendant, and so does Officer Richards,” Collins said. “He’s not on trial, but the police deserve a fair chance too to present their story in court.”

Watch 8News at 5:00, 5:30 and 6:00 for 8News reporter Ava-joye Burnett’s full report.


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