Charges have been dropped against a Durham woman and others who claimed harassment, excessive force and racial bias after police entered their home in April, but the case may not be over.
In April, Vera McGriff posted posted a video on Facebook that shows part of an incident in which she contends police illegally entered her home, falsely accused her son and inappropriately used a Taser on individuals while two young children looked on. The video was viewed about 200,000 times.
Police officials said they were following up on a recent arrest tied to drug dealing. Officers said they entered the home April 8 after smelling marijuana and that two officers were assaulted.
McGriff was charged with maintaining a dwelling and resisting a public officer. Khadir Cherry was charged with two counts of possession with intent to manufacture, sell and/or distribute, maintaining a dwelling, two counts of assault on a government official, resisting a public officer and possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Raynell Hall was charged with assault on a government official and resisting a public officer. Jahmon Cedeno was charged with assault on a government official.
The charges were dismissed in Durham County District Court on July 20. Scott Holmes, McGriff’s lawyer, said it’s a common procedure for the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss charges in District Court in order to review whether to continue with felony charges in Superior Court.
Holmes said he thinks the charges against McGriff are gone for good but isn’t sure about the others who were charged.
“I am very pleased that the charges against Vera were dismissed,” he said.
District Attorney Roger Echols said they are assessing the case.
“At this point we cannot announce who will be charged or what crimes will be charged, if any,” Echols wrote in an email. “I expect our determination will be made soon as to whether or not to indict.”
Meanwhile, John M. Foster, one of the officers who entered the home, is no longer with the police department.
“He was not released due to any involvement with that incident,” police spokesman Wil Glenn said. “He is now employed with another agency.”
Glenn said Foster, who was hired July 2011, resigned July 1.
Five officers on the High Enforcement Abatement Team, a flexible squad of officers who focus on drugs, vice and gang violence, visited McGriff’s home around 10:30 p.m. April 8 to follow up on the arrest of Cherry, who had been arrested four days earlier on the charge of possession with intent to manufacture, sell or distribute marijuana. A warrant was obtained after officers initially entered and secured the home.
The incident raised questions about whether it was appropriate to do a follow-up technique known as a “knock and talk” at 10:30 p.m., whether the officers should have entered the home and if the police department should have spent resources on a case involving marijuana.
Glenn said the incident remains under investigation.
Holmes said he has many questions, including whether police used appropriate force to make a marijuana arrest when the video indicated people weren’t actively threatening officers.
“At most, the video shows passive resistance or a delay in compliance,” Holmes said.