CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Charlottesville Police Chief Alfred Thomas resigned abruptly Monday, just 17 days after the release of a report that was highly critical of the Police Department’s handling of an August white supremacist rally that turned deadly in the Virginia city, reported The Washington Post.
The 207-page report prepared by Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, concluded that the Police Department was ill-prepared, lacked proper training and had a flawed plan for managing the Unite the Right rally that drew hundreds of neo-Nazis and white nationalists to Charlottesville on Aug. 12 and resulted in violent clashes with counter-protesters. The lack of adequate preparation led to “disastrous results,” Heaphy wrote.
Thomas, an Air Force veteran who previously was chief of the Lexington Police Department in Virginia, had led the Charlottesville agency since May 2016. Moreover, he was the city’s first black police chief.
“Nothing in my career has brought me more pride than serving as the police chief for the city of Charlottesville,” Thomas said in a news release. “I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to protect and serve a community I love so dearly. It truly has been an unparalleled privilege to work alongside such a dedicated and professional team of public servants. I wish them and the citizens of Charlottesville the very best.”
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City Manager Maurice Jones was complimentary of Thomas. He said the chief served with distinction and honor.
“He is a man of integrity who has provided critical leadership for our department since his arrival,” Jones said in a statement. “We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
The review of the August rally confirmed widespread observations that police did not intervene to break up brawls on downtown streets. As a result of the passive stance, the report said it “represents a tremendous tactical failure that has real and lasting consequences.”
Heaphy said he heard from a couple of officers in the police command center that day who said Thomas told officers, “Let them fight for a little. It will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.”
Through his attorney, Kevin Martingayle, Thomas denied ever saying, “Let them fight.”
Alfred Thomas, the police chief in Charlottesville, Virginia, announced his retirement Monday just weeks after the release of a critical review of his department's reaction to a violent white nationalist rally over the summer https://t.co/ElssNJbXZm pic.twitter.com/Ni2TbThdXH
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 18, 2017
Several hours after the rally had been declared an unlawful assembly, prosecutors say, Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters on Fourth Street NE. Consequently, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant was killed. Furthermore, another 35 people were injured.
Hence, Fields was charged with first-degree murder last week.
In the report, Heaphy called Heyer’s death “the most tragic manifestation of the failure to protect public safety after the event” and pointed to police decisions that left the section of the city where Heyer was struck abandoned by law enforcement.