HARRISONBURG — A Harrisonburg woman whose arrest in December sparked protests claiming police used excessive force was found not guilty on Wednesday.
Melissa Eileen Duncan, 22, was found not guilty of two felony counts of assaulting a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
Duncan appeared in the Rockingham County Circuit Court on Tuesday and waived her right to a jury trial, leaving the judge subject to decide the verdict.
Judge Bruce Albertson said Wednesday that he was “pretty flabbergasted by the case.”
The investigation into Duncan began on Dec. 16, when Officers Jones, Kramer and Castellano responded to a party at the North 38 Apartments off Old Furnace Road for a noise complaint.
Jones and Kramer were greeted by Duncan and her spouse Marcus Bradley, who began insulting the officers and complaining they were being racially profiled, according to officer accounts. Castellano arrived to the scene later.
Released footage showed three officers, who were being verbally assaulted for more than 10 minutes, attempting to deescalate the situation.
Kramer issued a summons for the noise violation, which Bradley signed.
Bradley and Duncan went back inside the apartment, where according to body camera footage submitted for evidence, approximately eight minutes went by before Bradley and Duncan greeted the three officers again.
After police said Bradley was being arrested, Bradley bolted inside the home, according to a Harrisonburg Police Department report of the incident.
Jones and Castellano followed Bradley inside the apartment, where they attempted to place Bradley under arrest. Duncan followed Castellano and Kramer was the last to enter the apartment.
Jones’ body camera fell off during the initial attempt to arrest Bradley outside of the apartment and therefore was unable to capture any incidents happening inside the apartment.
Castellano and Kramer’s body cameras remained intact inside the apartment and were used for evidence. A video posted on YouTube was also used for evidence.
Video footage and testimonies showed Jones and Castellano over Bradley, who was on the floor in the living area. Jones and Castellano both said Duncan made physical contact with them during the attempt to arrest Bradley.
Albertson said he reviewed the YouTube video submitted for evidence over a course of three hours, pausing the frame every second to observe. While doing this, two of the frames, which he presented photos of to the court, supported Duncan’s claim that Jones placed a “chokehold” on Bradley.
Jones, Kramer and Castellano all testified saying there was no “chokehold” on Bradley or they did not see a “chokehold” on Bradley.
Duncan’s attorney, Jessica Sherman-Stoltz, told the court Tuesday that Duncan’s reactions of pulling and pushing at the officers where out of fear for Bradley, whom she was trying to aid.
Duncan said she tried to push Jones off of Bradley due to Jones placing a “chokehold” on Bradley. Duncan said she heard Bradley say “I can’t breathe,” leading her to push Jones.
Duncan denied to kicking, punching or sticking any officer, but admitted to pushing and pulling at officers.
Police say Duncan assaulted officers before they deployed a Taser.
Jones deployed a Taser first, followed by Kramer deploying a second Taser. Kramer said he saw the Taser “not work” and attempted a second Taser.
Albertson ultimately found Duncan not guilty of all three charges out of Duncan having “reasonable fear” for her spouse.