Man to sue police over claim officers ‘brutalized’ him

Videos of Lawrence Fenner’s arrest spread on social media. He says officers dragged him out of his car and tased him during a traffic stop.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A Newport News man who was pulled out of his car and Tased by police officers during a traffic stop now plans to sue the Newport News Police Department.

The video of Lawrence Fenner’s June 21 arrest spread across social media. Fenner told reporters at a press conference on Monday that he believed his life was at risk.

“I got to go to therapy because of this. It’s just so much,” Fenner said through tears. “I feel I could have died.”

It happened near 30th Street and Roanoke Avenue. Fenner’s attorney, Amina Matheny-Willard, claimed officers pulled Fenner over, attacked him, and only took him to the hospital after an employee at the Newport News City Jail refused to accept him without medical clearance.

“Every day I see these things happen on social media as well as the news. I would have never thought in my life, it would happen to me,” Fenner said.

Matheny-Willard claimed: tasing by officers caused a life-threatening kidney condition called rhabdomyolysis.

“He had to have his kidneys flushed out,” Matheny-Willard said. “The emergency room doctor basically indicated that if he had not gone to the hospital and had his kidneys flushed out, he could have died.”

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said officers had pulled Fenner out of the car and Tased him because he didn’t follow commands and allegedly fought the officers.

“It got to the point, one of the officers punched me in the face multiple times. And I’m like, I can’t just sit here,” Fenner said. “That’s when I attempted to get up off the ground, that’s when they all tackled me. And you know what happened next, as the video shows.”

Drew said body camera video showed police were following department policy.

“This is a case where my client was brutalized by the police,” Matheny-Willard said. “He was beat by the police, he was kneed by the police, and then he was Tased excessively.”

Mathey-Willard said her team plans to file the lawsuit by the end of this year or early next year. She said officers could have handled the arrest differently.

“Honestly, Black men are not trying to square up with the police,” she said. “That’s just a fact.”

Fenner said he wants to make sure what happened to him won’t happen to anyone else.

“I gave them everything they needed – as far as my license and stuff of that nature – for them to do what they got to do,” Fenner said. “I felt like it was out of protocol. After they got my license, it’s just a simple traffic stop.”

Fenner was previously charged with four counts of assault on law enforcement, possession of a firearm by a violently practiced felon, obstruction of justice with threats and force, having a concealed weapon and fraudulent altering of license plates.

Three of the assault charges, the firearm possession, and forgery charges have since been withdrawn.

Fenner pleaded no contest to the assault charge, which was downgraded to a misdemeanor, and the concealed weapon and obstruction charges

Matheny-Willard said they expect those charges to be withdrawn, as well.

A spokesperson for the Newport News Police Department declined to comment.

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