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Wronged

Jeremy Lazarus | 2/19/2015, 6:02 p.m.
Retired factory worker Leonard Mc Millian had his home invaded by a police squad and spent more than an hour ...
Retired factory worker Leonard McMillian had his home invaded by a police squad and spent more than an hour in handcuffs when police responded to calls about crimes at his home that proved bogus. Actor and songwriter Jerome Arrington spent a miserable seven weeks in jail after Richmond police arrested him for a street robbery he did not commit. Both men are African-American. Neither has received an apology for their ordeals, which appear to be relatively rare in a city where officers respond daily to dozens of calls. Still, their stories suggest that things can go dismayingly wrong even when police and prosecutors believe they are going by the book.

Phony call results in police invasion of his home, handcuffs

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Mr. McMillian

Leonard McMillian knows that being a black man in Richmond can bring unexpected trouble.

The retired factory worker has never been charged with a crime. But since moving to Richmond 14 years ago, “the greatest threat to my survival has been the Richmond police,” he says.

City police officers have stopped him and pointed guns at his head because his vehicle resembled the vehicle a shooter was using, he recalled.

Mr. McMillian, 57, also talked about being pulled over by police after he distributed free vegetables in Gilpin Court. Officers jumped into his vehicle and searched it without permission while another officer detained him, he said.

In another incident, he said he was stopped and handcuffed by an officer who told Mr.

McMillian he was being detained because the license numbers on the garden equipment trailer he was pulling were “close” to those on a trailer reported stolen.

He also has been stopped while walking his dog because the officer said he fit the description of someone involved in a domestic dispute.

However, Mr. McMillian said nothing tops Oct. 28, 2014, when city police officers forced their way into his North Side home after being called to investigate what they were told was a violent domestic dispute — even though the complaint would prove to be a malicious prank.

“I felt I was dealing with mad men,” he said of the surreal experience — an example of what can happen when police unquestioningly assume that the information received from 911 calls is always truthful and accurate.

He appeared before City Council last week to speak about what happened and was quickly referred to a police officer who took his information and referred it to a superior. However, Mr. McMillian already has been notified that the department has deemed the officers acted appropriately after an internal affairs review of his complaint.

Here’s what he said happened:

It was around 4 a.m. when seven police officers arrived at the darkened, silent, neatly tended brick house and began pounding at the door. Mr. McMillian said he and his wife of 34 years were asleep on the second floor, while his visiting son was asleep in a basement bedroom.

Awakened, Mr. McMillian said he went downstairs to investigate the loud knock- ing. He said he opened the door after those knocking identified themselves as police officers who had come to investigate a “domestic dispute.”

He said he told the officers to wait outside while he got his wife, only to have three of the officers push him aside and enter his living room. The fact that everything was in place in the room and the adjacent dining room did not seem to register, Mr. McMillian said.

Mr. McMillian said he was bullied when he protested their entry. Instead of courtesy, he said an officer twisted his arm and forced him down on the sofa where he was left handcuffed. He was told, he said, that he would be shot with a taser if he kept asking for a lawyer or to see a supervisor.