AUGUSTA COUNTY DEPUTY VIOLENTLY ASSAULTS BLM ACTIVISTS AND POLICE AUDITORS - DEPUTY ON PAID LEAVE
Updated: Mar 3
Written by: Sam Orlando and Cameron Turley
Staunton, VA: On August 31, 2022, a disturbing incident of police violence took place in the city of Staunton that has brought to light the need for greater accountability and transparency in cases of police misconduct. In this case, the violent police officer was caught on dash cam video. Breaking Through has obtained that video, and you can view it at the end of this article.
Antwohn Suiter, the president of Black Lives Matter Shenandoah Valley, and a friend, Chris Shifflett, were driving through the city when they came upon a traffic stop. Mr. Suiter, who is a police auditor, noticed that the officers involved in the stop were from Augusta County, even though they were located in the city of Staunton.
Mr. Suiter and Mr. Shiflett began to record the officers' interactions in a public space. They were not impeding traffic or the officers in performing their duties,, however the officers became enraged and approached Mr. Suiter and Mr. Shifflett. What followed was nothing short of an assault. One of the officers struck Mr. Shiflett, taking him to the ground and knocking his phone out of his hand. In a video taken at the scene, officers can be heard confirming that Mr. Shifflett did not resist, but no explanation is given for why he was assaulted.
As Mr. Suiter continued to record the interaction, and as the police officers handcuffed Mr. Shiflett, CJ Taylor, a deputy with the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, came back to Suiter and attacked him, punching him and knocking his camera out of his hands. The incident was captured on video, and Breaking Through News has learned that CJ Taylor has been placed on PAID leave pending investigation. This means that the citizens of Augusta County are paying this guy's salary for beating up African-American and minority people. We have not been able to confirm why Deputy Taylor was wearing State Police garb, but we did confirm with the Virginia State Police that he is not a Trooper.
This incident is yet another reminder of the need for real accountability and transparency in cases of police misconduct. Across the country, there have been far too many incidents of police officers using excessive force, especially against people of color.
Breaking Through reached out to Staunton Commonwealth Attorney Jeffrey Gaines to find out the status of this allegation. Mr. Gaines refused to comment, citing prosecutorial ethics as the reason he would not answer questions about the “pending criminal matter”. I followed up with the Commonwealth to ask specifically if he could comment on a more general question, namely whether he supports a policy that places violent police officers on taxpayer paid vacation.
Gaines sent the following response: “ I have no public comment on the personnel policies and personnel decisions of government agencies over which I have no control – especially when such policies and/or decisions are related to a person accused of a crime.”
It is clear from Gaines’ responses that there exists a criminal matter related to the allegations against CJ Taylor. It is also clear that the people of Augusta County have paid leave benefits to a police officer, who appears to be committing violent crimes on video, for the past several months. Finally, it is clear that in Augusta County, two distinctly different systems ot justice exist between the larger population and those who wear badges.
Is it perhaps time for the federal government to take over any investigation into these matters?
This is one way for the people of Augusta County to be assured that the crimes committed here have been fully investigated and that those responsible have been adequately charged. The Augusta County Sheriff has resisted calls for body camera devices for his deputies in the past, but incidents like these only serve to increase the pressure on the Sheriff and the Augusta County Board of Supervisors to fund, purchase, and use body camera devices.
In conclusion, this incident is a wake-up call for all of us. We must demand greater accountability and transparency in cases of police misconduct, and we must call on our elected officials to take action. We cannot let incidents like this continue to occur without consequences. It is time for us to stand up and demand justice for all.
You may view two available videos of the assaults below. The first is a cell phone camera video provided by Suiter, and the second is a dash cam also provided by Suiter.
*This article was updated on 3/3/23 to reflect that the deputy in question, CJ Taylor, is on paid leave, according to law enforcement sources.
Assault - Dashcam view
Assault - Iphone view