The case of a man charged with assault on law enforcement and other offenses from the May 31 clash outside Fifth & Federal Station will go to a grand jury, a judge decided Tuesday.
Demetre Jamel Wade, 26, of Lynchburg, also faces charges of participating in an unlawful assembly, maliciously throwing an object into an occupied dwelling and misdemeanor destruction of property from events that night. He appeared in Lynchburg General District Court on Friday for a preliminary hearing that was decided Tuesday.
A protest started outside Fifth & Federal during the day May 31 amid nationwide movements against police brutality and for racial equity after the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 in Minneapolis police custody. The Lynchburg protest turned violent into the night, witnesses and law enforcement have said.
More than 20 people now face charges from that night, most of them for unlawful assembly or in connection with videos and photos showing them throwing rocks or bricks toward the restaurant and the nearby Adams Motor Company building. Some also have been charged with throwing objects at police.
Aubrey Barbour Jr., who participated in the protest and testified at Wade’s preliminary hearing Friday, said he saw Wade, identified by a striped polo shirt, throwing a water bottle at a police car while it was passing through the roundabout intersection during the day. Though Barbour later said he didn’t personally know Wade, he said he told Wade the protest didn’t “need this kind of action.”
As it grew dark, Barbour said tensions grew — he testified militia members carrying holstered AR-15-style firearms came to the restaurant and the restaurant owner emerged at one point to say, “We got guns,” before police intervened and made those individuals take their guns either back inside the restaurant or inside a vehicle.
During cross-examination, Barbour said no one he saw at the protest had that kind of weaponry, and he saw two people standing and laying on the roof of the building.
Tensions at the intersection broke after 11 p.m., when a noise that “sounded like a gunshot” sent people scattering, said Officer Collin Byrne, with the Lynchburg Police Department. Immediately, he said, he and other officers used pepper spray to disperse the crowd because they weren’t sure what exactly happened. At that point, he said, protesters started to throw a “plethora of objects” in earnest.
Answering questions from Wade’s defense attorney, Byrne said he was “concerned with escalation from physical firearms” that night and that no one entered the restaurant to investigate the popping sound. Testimony in other hearings has attributed that noise to a firecracker.
Barbour testified he saw upwards of 50 people, including Wade, throwing objects at the buildings. Late into the night, he said, Wade and two others were throwing a few objects at a barricade of police and an armored vehicle, where Byrne and another officer were injured. Barbour said he was videotaping most of the event and captured Wade throwing objects on camera.
Byrne said he and other officers fell back behind the armored vehicle about 10 minutes after the loud noise, then tried repeatedly to break up the crowd, which at that point had been declared an unlawful assembly.
While behind the armored vehicle, Byrne was struck by two objects in quick succession: first in the shin and then in the face, where a rock or brick fragment broke his plastic face shield and cut him. He said he went to the hospital that night and received stitches to his face.
Detective Matthew Scott, who said he reviewed many hours of footage from that night depicting hundreds of people, said another LPD officer identified Wade in the footage. After Scott visited Wade’s residence and didn’t find him there, he said, Wade came to LPD offices of his own accord and confirmed he was depicted in photos from that night.
In interviews, Scott said Wade admitted to throwing a few objects at the restaurant but denied throwing objects at officers and said he had no intention of hurting them.
General District Judge Randy Krantz heard the evidence in Wade’s case Friday but held off on his determination until Tuesday, since Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison interjected a motion to revoke Wade’s bond based on two DUI charges he’s picked up in the past three months.
Krantz cited the potential for danger Wade could cause to himself and the community apparent from the evidence in the DUI cases in deciding to revoke his bond. He did so before certifying the Fifth & Federal charges, since the general district court loses jurisdiction over the case once it’s certified. He added his ruling wasn’t based on Wade’s underlying charges.
Wade was remanded to the Lynchburg jail after his hearing Tuesday, and a city grand jury will hear his case April 5 to determine whether there’s enough evidence for it to go to trial.