RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In 2015, we had a lot of big, local stories that had people talking.
Here are some of the biggest stories we saw locally this year:
This story hit very close to home. The gunman behind the tragic shooting of WDBJ photojournalist Adam Ward and reporter Alison Parker claimed it was the racism of the Charleston church shooting that prompted him to create a scene of carnage in the late summer. Vester Lee Flanagan, a disgruntled former news anchor, shot two of his former colleagues while they were live on air. The August 26 shooting left Parker and Ward dead and interviewee Vicki Gardner injured. Flanagan later posted a video on social media of the shooting that he appeared to have filmed during the attack using a portable camera. He also sent ABC News a 23-page manifesto. Flanagan shot himself to death during a car chase with police later that day.
It was the story that made headlines in Richmond for over two years. In June, former Richmond Mega Church Pastor Geronimo Aguilar was found guilty of sexually assaulting two young girls when he was their youth pastor in Fort Worth, Texas back in the 1990s. Months later in October, Aguilar was sentenced to 40 years. The verdict brought a sense of calm to the victims and thousands of former ROC parishioners who felt hurt, lost and lied to.
“It was a sense of peace, he can’t harm anyone else,” said Mandy Mansfield, a former ROC parishioner.
University of Virginia student Martese Johnson garnered national attention after video of his bloody March 18 arrest made by Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) special agents went viral. The 21-year-old could be heard on the video calling the officers racist. He was bleeding from a gash in his head that, according to his lawyer, needed 15 stitches to close. The agents were apparently trying to question Johnson, who was then 20, after he showed identification but was turned away from a bar across the street from U.Va.’s campus on St. Patrick’s Day. Johnson faced misdemeanor charges for obstruction of justice and public intoxication, but those charges were dropped.
The incident prompted Gov. Terry McAuliffe to order additional training for ABC’s 130 officers and appoint a task force to examine the agency’s law enforcement practices. The task force last month declined to recommend stripping ABC of its arrest powers but recommended that the agency emphasize regulatory activities, such as licensing compliance, over law enforcement.
McAuliffe also ordered a state police investigation, which concluded that agents “only used physical force to detain and arrest Johnson” and did not employ any of the more aggressive tactics that agents are allowed to use when a person resists arrest. The Charlottesville prosecutor determined that the agents did nothing wrong and declined to file charges.
Now, attorneys for the ABC agency are trying to have a $3 million lawsuit filed by Johnson thrown out. The suit alleges unlawful detention and excessive use of force.
In September, the world came to Richmond for the UCI Road World Championships. 450,000 people were projected to visit Richmond for the nine-day bike race, with competitors from 70 plus countries.
Once the cyclists rolled out after the nine day event, organizers called it a huge success, though some local business owners told 8News that they didn’t see the impact they had hoped for.
In November, three local men were arrested and now face federal charges after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uncovered a plot to commit acts of violence against Black and Jewish places of worship.
34-year-old Robert Doyle and 33-year-old Ronald Beasley Chaney III have been charged with conspiracy to possess firearms after being convicted of felonies and possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of unregistered firearms. A third suspect, Charles Halderman, is also facing a federal charge in connection to the case.
Federal court documents say the suspects are accused of being white supremacists. Federal court documents say that in September, the FBI learned of a planned meeting at Doyle’s home with other unknown people to discuss bombing or shooting occupants of Black churches and synagogues, conducting acts of violence against people of the Jewish faith and doing harm to a gun store owner in Oklahoma.
In early December, the suspects were indicted on new charges. Court documents brought to light many details of the alleged plot and what led up to the arrests.
It’s a local story that went viral for good reason. The moment a Dinwiddie woman told her husband she was pregnant after 17 years of trying to have a baby was captured on video and captivated many. Little Kaleb Graves, also known as ‘Baby Buns’ was born 17 weeks early, but the little online celebrity is now thriving.
From the most powerful office in the state to criminal convictions: Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison after a jury found him guilty on corruption charges. The Former First Lady was also part of that case. She was sentenced in February to serve 12 months and one day in prison.
The U.S. Supreme Court has said that McDonnell can stay out of prison as he appeals the verdict. McDonnell argues that he never took any official action to benefit a wealthy businessman who showered him and his family with more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.
For more polls, click here.