Policing the Police: How Assault Charges Against an Augusta Deputy Highlight the Need for Oversight
Written by: Sam Orlando
STAUNTON, VA - An Augusta County Sheriff's Deputy, CJ Taylor, has been charged with two counts of assault and battery, according to Virginia criminal complaints and reports from one of the victims. The charges stem from an incident on August 31st, 2022, in Staunton, where Taylor allegedly assaulted two police auditors who were recording a traffic stop from a distance. According to the complaints, one of the auditors, Antwhon Suiter, who is also the President of Black Lives Matter Shenandoah Valley, alleged that Deputy Taylor approached him "aggressively," throwing another auditor, Chris Shifflett, to the ground. Suiter also reported that Taylor squeezed his fingers painfully while grabbing his phone, causing him harm, according to Suiter's complaint. In a separate complaint, Chris Shifflett detailed a similar encounter with Taylor. Shifflett stated that when he began recording the traffic stop, Taylor approached him in an aggressive manner. Despite Shifflett maintaining a passive stance, which as you can see is corroborated by dash cam and phone video, Taylor allegedly grabbed Shifflett's wrist, slammed him to the ground, and damaged his phone in the process. The video appears to show this series of events.
Click here to read Breaking Through's coverage of this assault earlier this year, which includes the full dash cam video! These incidents are particularly noteworthy given that the auditors were recording the officers in Staunton, a location outside of Taylor's jurisdiction as an Augusta County deputy. While these charges are significant in their own right, they also highlight a broader issue that has been covered extensively in the past: the apparent hostility of Augusta County deputies towards being recorded. This recent event further underscores the concerns surrounding the Augusta County Sheriff's resistance to body cameras, suggesting a pattern of behavior that opposes transparency and accountability, even to the point of violence.
Suiter, reached by Breaking Through Reporters after the charges had been filed, said "This is a good example of everyone being held to the same standard. No one is above the law. And even those who take an oath to uphold and enforce the law, abuse it to their own risk." Suiter further thanked the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations which led the investigation, and he thanked the special prosecutor.
What are those potential consequences? According to Virginia statutes, Deputy Taylor faces up to 2 years in jail, and a fine of up to $5,000 if he is convicted of the charges against him. A special prosecutor has been appointed to handle these cases for the Commonwealth. It remains to be seen how these charges will play out in court, and whether they will instigate any changes within the Augusta County Sheriff's Office regarding their stance on recording devices and the transparency they offer. Residents of Staunton and Augusta County will undoubtedly be watching closely as this case unfolds, hoping for a resolution that emphasizes safety, accountability, and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.