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Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023

Last night, a boy was injured in a shooting near the intersection of 6th and Garrett streets. Police have released very little information about the incident, other than to say the boy is in stable condition.

The shooting coincided with a power outage that affected about 2,400 people in and around the Belmont neighborhood, according to CBS19. It’s unclear if the two incidents are connected, though one of our reporters who lives in Belmont said they could hear what sounded like an explosion just before the lights went out.

This child is the 14th person either injured or killed in shootings in Charlottesville since September. That number does not include the three University of Virginia students killed on campus last year, as UVA is technically part of Albemarle County.

A woman stands outside at a podium speaking. A man in a suit stands behind her.
RaShall Brackney announces her plan to sue the City of Charlottesville in August 2022. Credit: Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

A district court judge this week threw out former Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney’s lawsuit that alleged city officials discriminated against her based on her race and gender when they fired her in 2021.

The simple explanation for why Judge Norman Moon dismissed the suit is that Brackney did not present enough facts to support her case.

“You need a short course on employment law and procedure to understand” the details of the judge’s decision, UVA Law Professor George Rutherglen told me yesterday. “But the law, in general, is this: A plaintiff has to give factually, fairly specific allegations that satisfy every element of the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiff can’t just say, they engaged in racial discrimination against me. The plaintiff has to allege the facts that plausibly show that there was discrimination or harassment.”

Judge dismisses former Charlottesville Police Chief Brackney’s racial discrimination suit

Brackney’s suit made numerous allegations against nine city officials and a police union leader — among them that those individuals conspired to have her fired because of her race and gender, and in retaliation for her decision to discipline white officers. (For a more detailed account of her lawsuit, check out this story from August 2022.)

Shortly before her firing, Brackney said she learned that members of her department’s SWAT team were engaging in “disturbing behaviors” while on duty. These officers had swapped text messages about killing other people on the police force.

“I say we kill them all and let God sort them out,” one read.

“Let’s take em both out,” said another.

The officers were also sharing pornographic content and videos of their children detonating explosives and shooting department-issued semiautomatic weapons. Brackney responded by disbanding the SWAT team and several officers were either fired or resigned.

Following that action, the local chapter of the Police Benevolent Association conducted a survey of officers with questions about how they felt toward their chief. The survey results were highly critical of Brackney.

Independent police association criticizes police chief; city replies by lambasting police units, officers

Charlottesville officials initially defended Brackney, but within days former City Manager Chip Boyles changed his mind. During that time, he said, he learned of a second survey that Brackney herself had conducted that also showed officers were unhappy — and that many wanted to leave.

Boyles spoke with several people in the department and quickly determined that Brackney was not fit to lead. Less than two weeks later, he fired her.

All five Charlottesville City Councilors, as well as former city spokesperson Brian Wheeler (bottom left) and former City Manager Chip Boyles (top center) listen to public comment about the decision to fire Brackney during the Oct. 4, 2021 City Council meeting.

Boyles says that two CPD surveys influenced his decision to fire the police chief — here’s what those surveys say

Boyles resigned from his position shortly after firing Brackney, saying the public backlash for the decision was more than he could cope with.

With Brackney’s case now dismissed, Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook told NBC29 that he’s relieved. “It allows us to sort of close the book on the Brackney era,” he said.

But this might not be the last we hear about it. Brackney has the option to appeal Judge Moon’s decision to a higher court. Her attorney did not say specifically if they would, but he did say they aren’t going to let the matter drop.

“Our advice to the Defendants: Don’t go whistling Dixie yet, because we have only just begun to battle.”

Johnson and Burnley-Moran up next as Charlottesville charges forward with school name review

The last story we have today is about the public school name review. After voting to change the names of Venable and Clark Elementary Schools to Trailblazers and Summit earlier this year, City Schools is now reconsidering Burnley-Moran and Johnson Elementary Schools.

If you have an opinion, this is your moment to give it! City Schools opened a survey asking a single question: Should the district keep the names and the associations with Carrie Burnley, Sarepta Moran and James Johnson or find new names for the two schools? The district will also hold a Zoom meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. to discuss that question. Anyone interested in participating at the forum should RSVP on the school’s website here.

If you’re not sure who the individuals are, we’ve compiled some information about them in this story. It’s worth taking a moment to learn about them.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me! I hope you have a good week,

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.