Durham News

Video of Durham Police Department search goes viral

The Durham Police Department is investigating a weekend incident that led to a viral video claiming harassment and racial bias.

Vera McGriff posted a 3 minute and 21 second video Saturday on her Facebook page, where she goes by the name Vee Dollaz.

McGriff contends police entered her house illegally, falsely accused her son and used a Taser on everyone there. McGriff and her family are black.

“The Durham Police Department is investigating all matters concerning this incident including the use of force, which is standard protocol,” Wil Glenn, a spokesman for the Police Department, wrote in a statement.

Officers were following up on a drug arrest at the home on the 3400 block of Misty Pine Avenue at 10:30 p.m. Friday, Glenn wrote. They reported smelling “a strong odor of marijuana” after the door of the home was opened. A warrant was obtained and the house searched at 12:50 a.m. Saturday, according to the warrant.

In the warrant, Officer J.M. Foster says he was given information by another officer that police had arrested Khadir Cherry, a resident of the home, on April 4 on a charge of selling marijuana.

Foster states that while conducting a follow-up at the address, he encountered Raynell Hall standing in the driveway and asked to speak with the homeowner. When Hall opened the door to walk inside the home, Foster said he smelled marijuana, according to Foster’s statement.

“Through my training and experience I know that the only thing that smells like marijuana is marijuana,” he said in the warrant.

Armstrong said he “seized the house” and officers conducted a “safety sweep for suspects.” Cherry was found at the home and marijuana cigarettes, a water pipe and cigar wrappers were in plain view, along with tobacco that had been taken out of the cigars to be replaced with marijuana, Foster stated.

During the incident, two officers were assaulted, Glenn stated. Cherry attempted to grab an officer’s service weapon and refused to obey “lawful orders.” Hall struck one officer on the shoulder, he stated.

“In order to execute the arrests during the volatile scene, officers deployed a Taser on Mr. Hall and an officer struck Mr. Cherry with a baton in the area between the hip and knee,” wrote Glenn.

Cherry, 25, was charged with two counts of possession with intent to manufacture, sell and/or distribute, and maintaining a dwelling. He was also charged with two counts of assault on a government official, resisting a public officer and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

Hall, 42, was charged with assault on a government officer and resisting a public officer.

Jahmon Cedeno, 24, was charged with assault on a government official.

McGriff, 48, was charged with maintaining a dwelling and resisting a public officer.

Different account

But McGriff describes a different account in the video and the Facebook post (WARNING: Explicit language).

In the video, which as of 5:30 p.m. Monday had been viewed more than 118,200 times, officers are in the home and people in the house are yelling comments that include “he just hit me in the head with a gun.”

In a Facebook post, McGriff wrote that police pushed into her home contending that they smelled weed.

“I told the officer, ‘No you cannot come in my house without a search warrant,’ ” McGriff wrote. “The officer put his foot at the bottom of the door and 4 of them bum rushed me ...”

McGriff said the officers are targeting her son and making false accusations.

“Everybody was tased, one officer hit my son in the face with his Glock 9, we were choked, kicked thrown down on the floor this is harassment ...,” she wrote.

Nia Wilson, executive director of SpiritHouse, said the community organizing nonprofit is assisting the family. Six people were in the home, including two children between the ages of 9 and 12, she said. One has a seizure disorder, and Emergency Medical Services had to be called during the incident, she said.

McGriff is “a very traumatized mother” who has no comment at this time, but plans to release a statement in coming days, Wilson said.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges