A Lot of Unanswered Questions

The Chambers family. Photo credit: Richmond Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Painting racial slurs on the face of an unconscious Black teenage boy is wrong.

That being said, a recent incident in the Richmond area leads to a lot of questions, including concerning the quality of reporting done by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

According to an RTD on-line story Friday by reporter Mark Bowes, a Powhatan special prosecutor was looking into a 2020 incident in which a 16-year-old Black youth passed out intoxicated at a party in Powhatan County. While he was unconscious,”… the N-word, the letters KKK, a drawing of a penis, the phrase “F— BLM” and ‘White Lives Matter’ [were] scrawled on his head.” Also, he was draped with a Confederate flag and a sex toy was placed next to his head. As teenagers will do, others at the party took pictures of him and posted them on social media. Reportedly, this type of thing had been done before, as a “party joke.”

Two days later, the parents of the boy showed up at the Powhatan’s sheriff’s office saying their son had been “assaulted.” After taking their statement, a deputy advised them to consult with the commonwealth’s attorney and scheduled an appointment for them. They did not keep the appointment. The sheriff’s office said they contacted the parents at least two times following their first visit and were told the parents did not want to file a report or proceed with criminal investigations.

In December 2021, about fifteen months after the incident, the parents contacted the Powhatan sheriff’s office and said they wanted to file a report. The sheriff’s office investigated, but determined that a criminal warrant for misdemeanor assault could not be obtained because the statute of limitations of one year had elapsed. It turned the case over to the commonwealth’s attorney for any possible further action.

Because of conflicts with the parents’ “advocate,” Sa’ad El Amin, the Powhatan Commonwealth’s Attorney asked the court to assign the case to another prosecutor. The Petersburg commonwealth’s attorney was appointed. An assistant commonwealth’s attorney from Petersburg said she had reached out to the family but had not heard back.

Yesterday, the family held a public rally. The rally was covered for the RTD by another reporter.  The story on the rally downplayed the parents’ delay in filing a report. The story did not mention that the parents had originally told the sheriff’s office they did not want a criminal investigation. The story did feature the young man’s and his parents’ claim that a hate crime had been committed. Jerry Chambers asked the crowd, “How would you feel if you were physically abused with a sex toy? How would you feel if you were surrounded by guns all night while also being the only Black man in the room?” He did not mention that he was passed out drunk on the sofa. If all those people having guns made him uncomfortable, why was he there in the first place?

The young man reported that he had attempted suicide earlier this year. I have a lot of sympathy for him and hope that he is able to find mental healing.

I have to question the parents’ motives in this situation. At first, they don’t want a criminal investigation. Then, when they likely knew a criminal charge could not be lodged due to the statute of limitations, they filed a complaint, then held a public rally, and complained that the police had not done enough, although they had yet to respond to requests from the Petersburg CA to meet. There were a lot of speeches about hate crimes. Where was all this rage two years ago? And, has anyone asked those parents, “How was it that your 16-year-old son passed out drunk at a party held in another county (they lived in Chesterfield) in a house rented by a 19- year-old? Did you know where your son was that night?”