HARRISONBURG — Judge Bruce Albertson is “likely to rule” today regarding a Harrisonburg woman whose arrest in December sparked protests claiming police used excessive force.
Melissa Eileen Duncan, 22, was indicted May 20 by a Rockingham County grand jury on two felony counts of assaulting a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
Following her indictment, Albertson scheduled a jury trial for Tuesday.
Duncan appeared in the Rockingham County Circuit Court and waived her right to a jury trial, leaving the judge subject to decide the verdict. Duncan pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
The investigation into Duncan began on Dec. 16, when three Harrisonburg police officers responded to a party at the North 38 Apartments off Old Furnace Road for a noise complaint.
Officers 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.
Officer Castellano arrived to the scene later.
All three officers were called to testify before the court on Tuesday to recall their accounts of Dec. 16 and view their body camera footage.
Kramer testified before the court saying he had responded an hour prior to the incident in question for the first noise violation. He later responded to the second noise violation with Jones.
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.
Duncan’s attorney, Jessica Sherman-Stoltz, told the court 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.
Initially, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham NAACP questioned the officers’ use of force, but after talking to Chief Eric English and watching the body camera footage, released a statement saying the officers did nothing wrong.
Days after the arrest, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Democratic Socialists of America hosted a rally on Court Square in support of Duncan. They claimed Duncan’s arrest was an example of “systemic racism displayed by HPD.”
A second rally was held by the Shenandoah Socialist Collective on Sunday at Liberty Park in support of Duncan and Bradley.
Albertson called to reconvene today at 4 p.m. to review evidence.
Duncan remains free on bond from the Rockingham County Jail.