Former interim Richmond, VA, police chief William “Jody” Blackwell is claiming in a $5 million lawsuit against the city that he was fired for refusing to follow Mayor Levar Stoney’s request to have Richmond police officers stand guard during the removal of the city’s Confederate monuments.

Blackwell was tapped by Stoney to be Richmond’s interim police chief on June 16, 2020, after the mayor asked Chief William Smith to resign over police response to riots and protests, WRIC reports.

In the wrongful termination lawsuit, filed in Richmond Circuit Court, Blackwell alleges he was fired by Chief Gerald Smith seven months after returning to his old position “in retaliation for refusing to carry out Mayor Stoney’s illegal order” to have officers stationed around the city’s Confederate monuments as contractors removed them.

Attorneys representing the city seek to have the lawsuit dismissed, citing sovereign immunity and “factually and legally deficient” claims from Blackwell in a demurrer — a legal motion pleading the court for a dismissal. In the filing, the city’s counsel argues Blackwell does not have sufficient evidence to establish he was terminated because of his refusal “to engage in the alleged criminal activity.”

In his lawsuit, Blackwell said he expressed concerns with Stoney days before and during a meeting with the Richmond Police Department’s general counsel on June 26, 2020. Blackwell claims he and RPD’s general counsel at the time, David Mitchell, informed Stoney that such a request would violate a law prohibiting authorities from disturbing or interfering with any monuments or memorials.

That specific clause in the Virginia code was removed through legislation in April 2020, but the change didn’t go into effect until July 1, 2020.

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