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Darden's police partner will be fired, Norfolk vice mayor says
By MATTHEW JONES AND HARRY MINIUM, The Virginian-Pilot
© September 18, 2006
 

 

NORFOLK – The partner of city police officer Seneca Darden, who was fatally shot by a fellow officer, is going to be fired, according to the vice mayor.

A letter City Manager Regina V.K. Williams faxed Friday night to members of City Council said Officer Jason Canfield has been placed on administrative leave with the intention of dismissing him, Vice Mayor Paul R. Riddick said today.

Because Canfield is on probation, “there is no appeal process,” Riddick said Williams told him.

“I was told that Canfield is being fired because he disobeyed orders by going to that particular scene,” Riddick said, referring to the night Darden was killed.

Quoting from the letter from the city, Riddick said Williams indicated Canfield was not fired because of Darden’s death. She said that had his infraction “occurred at any other time, he would have been terminated,” Riddick said, quoting from the letter.

K-9 Officer Gordon Barry shot and killed Darden on May 21 in Young Terrace during a chaotic confrontation in which officers were trying to control a group of people incensed by prior shooting earlier that evening.

Darden and Canfield, who were supposed to be working undercover in Ghent, were instead in a nearby restaurant meeting a friend of Darden’s.

They went to the scene, where Darden attempted to help, pulling out his gun and ordering a man to the ground. When Barry arrived, he believed Darden, who wore a white T-shirt and jeans, was a threat.

Barry repeatedly shouted for Darden to put the gun down, and released his dog with a command to bring Darden down. Instead, the dog ran past Darden and attacked another man. Fearing for the safety of other officers, Barry fired six times, killing Darden.

The shooting evoked deep emotions among some black leaders in Norfolk because Darden, who was black, was killed by a white officer.

Canfield had been on administrative duty since the shooting. Riddick said he was angered when he heard Canfield would be fired.

He believes Darden and Canfield did the right thing when they left a nearby Burger King after hearing about the shootings in Young Terrace.

“I’m very upset,” Riddick said. “He was responding to a situation where officers needed help… Helping fellow police officers should be first nature; it should be automatic.”

Riddick said the letter from Williams indicated another officer, who was at Young Terrace the night Darden died, is also being fired. However, Willliams said he is being fired for an incident last December unrelated to the Darden shooting.

Riddick said the letter also indicated that Barry is still on administrative duty, and that his status has not yet been determined.

Riddick said neither the City Council nor the black community has been kept informed on the investigation into the shooting. However, he praised Mayor Paul Fraim, who recently called for the State Police to make public a copy of their report.

He said he is anxious to hear exactly why Canfield is being fired from Police Chief Bruce P. Marquis and Williams, and will raise the issue at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Marquis and Williams were unavailable for comment this afternoon.

Mayor Paul Fraim declined to specify Canfield’s status.

“This is a personnel matter within the authority of the city manager, and it would inappropriate for a member of council to comment, regardless of their feelings one way or another,” Fraim said.

Fraim said he had a brief meeting in Norfolk last week with Secretary of Public Safety John W. Marshall, who oversees the State Police, but that so far, the state has declined to release the report.

“I’m still working on it,” he said.

Michael McKenna, president of the local chapter of International Brotherhood of Police Officers, also questioned the city’s logic in firing Canfield.

“If I hear a policeman is being shot, or if I’m block away and some citizen is being shot, I’m going to go over there,” McKenna said. “I take an oath of office to protect people.”

Riddick agreed, saying he was told today that Canfield convinced his family to put up a $5,000 reward to help police capture the person who killed Norfolk Police Officer Stanley Reaves last October.

“Is this guy a bad cop?” Riddick said. “I don’t think so. And we’ve cut the legs from underneath him, and ruined his career.”