Unanswered Questions about Taser-Wielding Rob Walker on Monument Avenue

There are a lot of unanswered questions about a report that circulated through some Confederate heritage websites over the last few days about a report that VCU student Rob Walker, whose work in film school includes a film about the activities of the Virginia Flaggers, came upon two people who were defacing the Jefferson Davis monument on Monument Avenue and Richmond and repeatedly tased the individuals while awaiting the arrival of police.

First, we remain puzzled that there’s been no coverage of this story by the Richmond media. In the past the Flaggers have been successful in garnering media attention, and no one knows how to do this better than Susan Hathaway … who certainly had a hand in circulating the report about Walker’s actions. You would think the Flaggers would have embraced this story and shared it with the media, but this has not happened. Now we have reports that the Richmond Times-Dispatch is looking into the story based upon the account that’s been circulated. No news yet as to whether other Richmond media outlets have been contacted, although that may be only a matter of time. As the original report shared Walker’s e-mail address, I’m sure they will have no trouble tracking him down for his own account.

Second, we are still awaiting word from the Richmond police department as to what happened. After all, according to the report, one of the individuals cornered by Walker was tased repeatedly, a circumstance that usually requires medical attention. According to the account, police arrived at the scene and handcuffed the individuals involved. We have yet to see a police report on the matter, although we have learned that the police have also been contacted concerning the report of Walker’s actions.

Third, Walker’s use of a taser will doubtless come under scrutiny. As he was on campus at VCU turning in his project, it may be a matter of interest at VCU to learn about students bringing tasers to campus. The university has a policy concerning weapons on campus, and it is concerned about the proper use of tasers. Indeed, “proper use” is critical here. Was Walker acting in self-defense, or was he attacking people with his taser? Authorities investigating the matter may find that distinction to be critical.

Although we thank Susan Hathaway, the Virginia Flaggers, and various Confederate heritage websites for bringing this incident to our attention, it appears that the story is far from complete, and many important questions remain unanswered.

18 thoughts on “Unanswered Questions about Taser-Wielding Rob Walker on Monument Avenue

  1. Pat Young May 12, 2013 / 9:03 am

    I have no idea as to whether the Tasing took place. I would just note that in Suffolk County New York half a dozen people have died after being Tased. The taser is not a non-lethal implement, but rather merely a less lethal implement than a gun. They may be properly employed under certain circumstances, but the gloating original post cited makes it sound like tasing is an appropriate punishment for vandalism, as opposed to a deterrent to a deadly physical attack on a person..

    • John Foskett May 12, 2013 / 9:21 am

      I know quite a few law enforcement professionals. There is no way they would condone the use of a taser in the circumstances reported. Of course, as Brooks points out, this story seems still be lacking some “legs”.

  2. Tony May 12, 2013 / 10:54 am

    The story sounded a bit iffy at first. A cattle prod is used to sting, not incapacitate. However, there are some companies who manufacture stun batons (NOT a cattle prod) and these are legal to carry concealed in Virginia. Could it be the perps were simply issued a citation for misdemeanor vandalism and released? Maybe a police report wasn’t published for such a citation?

    Given the description of the events, seems like the police would have charged them with assault, though.

    • Brooks D. Simpson May 12, 2013 / 12:42 pm

      We’ll see. Generally speaking, there’s a record of 911 calls and reports are filed as a result of them. The citation would also be a matter of record (and could be accessed through the database Kevin Levin cited). He found nothing.

      Let’s be direct. The Flaggers seek publicity. They film their own confrontations with authorities and were quick to circulate a video of one of their number being arrested. The individual in question produced one of these films as a class project. So the individual is not unaware of the group’s interests, and in fact must have shared the story with the always-attention-seeking Ms. Hathaway, who quickly shared it so that it would gain broad circulation across the Confederate heritage cyberspace network, so to speak. In this case, however, at the moment that’s where it both begins and ends. I find that interesting.

      So the Flaggers want publicity? I’m simply helping to assure that they will get it. They can thank me later.

  3. Brooks D. Simpson May 12, 2013 / 2:31 pm

    My understanding is that three television networks in Richmond have now been contacted about Ms. Hathaway’s report.

  4. Corey Meyer May 12, 2013 / 4:14 pm

    I am sure Susan is getting more attention now than she bargained for…I for one am very glad to see she is finally getting the attention.

    • Brooks D. Simpson May 12, 2013 / 4:24 pm

      I know that the usual suspects are really, really quiet right now. Why that is … well, let them say why.

  5. John Henry Taylor May 13, 2013 / 7:39 am

    At the present time, it appears that Mr. Walker was acting in self defense and under attack by two vile creatures who were intent on damaging and defacing one of our monuments. End of story. Thank the Good Lord that citizens like Mr. Walker care enough to put themselves at risk to stop a crime, even when outnumbered two to one.

    • Rob Baker May 13, 2013 / 8:31 am

      It’s surprising that such actions, both violent and petty, have not been reported by the Richmond Police as of yet. But, throwing rocks at someone’s house has…..

      • John Henry Taylor May 13, 2013 / 10:03 am

        There should have been a damage to public property report filed with a notation that the report was cleared by arrest.

        • Brooks D. Simpson May 13, 2013 / 10:17 am

          Let’s try this again, Mr. Taylor. The Richmond Police department says it has no record of this incident. End of story … at least that one.

          You would think that Confederate heritage advocates would have some questions to ask of Ms. Hathaway. You can contact her on Twitter at @VaFlagger. We need answers if we’re really interested in restoring the honor.

        • Andy Hall May 13, 2013 / 11:27 am

          As I say, Mr. Taylor, as a retired Richmond police officer you have the ability to shine some real light on this matter. The best thing you could do for the Flaggers, right now, today, is to make some calls and get a copy of the report, and post it publicly. I’m sure you know people still in the department, and certainly know how to navigate the administrative bureaucracy involved. Don’t tell us what “should have been,” tell us what actually is.

          • John Henry Taylor May 15, 2013 / 4:49 am

            Just got back yesterday, Mr. Hall. Seems that Mrs. Susan Hathaway beat me to police H.Q. This is what I have learned – Mr. Rob P. Walker Jr., an apparent VCU student majoring in film making and a recipient of funds from the Virgnia Museum of Fine Art, called a Mr. Tripp Lewis, a member of the Virginia Flaggers organization and reported the attemted vandalism and his heroic actions that brought the two perps to justice. He had apparently also stated that he was stationed on the U.S.S. Cole when it was attacked in Yemen. Having no reason to disbelieve Mr. Walker, Mr. Lewis put him on a three-way call with Mrs. Hathaway and he repeated this story in great detail. Mrs. Hathaway was delighted to hear of the arrest of monument vandals and asked Mr. Walker if he would like her to put out an article on the incident and he agreed. Seems that the first indication of questionable integrity on Mr. Walker’s part was when a Navy official contacted Mrs. Hathaway and told her that he had absolutely no record of Mr. Walker’s service on the U.S.S. Cole. Mrs. Hathaway then drove to Richmond Police Headquarters and verified that there was absolutely no police report for either a simple assault or a vandalism on the day in question at the Jefferson Davis Monument. There is also no record of a radio call to that location on that day. Mrs. Hathaway has contacted Mr. Walker and he maintains that he is telling the truth. She asked him to produce a copy of the police report of the incident by last Monday and he did not do so. After being called again, Mr. Walker simply stated that he would be in Norfolk for the rest of the summer. Based on what has been discovered so far, it appears that the incident never happened and was fabricated by Mr. Walker. Mr. Walker is not a member of the Virginia Flaggers as some folks have been led to believe. Mrs. Hathaway stated that she would be issuing a statement on this apparent fraud. End of story for now.

          • kevlvn May 15, 2013 / 7:39 am

            Thanks for the update. 🙂

          • Brooks D. Simpson May 15, 2013 / 8:40 am

            Given what happened the last time you pronounced “end of story,” I might suggest that you refrain from using that phrase, although the “for now” shows you’ve learned something.

            That’s because the story’s not quite over, although what happens next depends on how Hathaway and the Flaggers move forward from here.

            Tripp Lewis’s role in this mess has not received the attention it deserves. He was at the center of Walker’s exercise in documentary filmmaking, and he was the person who brought Walker’s tall tale to Hathaway’s attention. Meanwhile, he’s getting people to contribute to his “defense fund” for a confrontation (recorded) that he sought that resulted in his arrest. So what we have here is a person who gets arrested, takes money, and helps to discredit the Flaggers while drawing attention to himself. Will Hathaway (herself no stranger to seeking attention) figure this out? Is Lewis an asset, a liability, or worse? I know that if I wanted to discredit the Flagger movement, I could choose no better instrument than Lewis.

            Hathaway must also understand that her sidekick, Connie Chastain, will want to keep this story alive. It’s one way for her to be heard in the CHM. If I were Hathaway, I’d want the discussion to die down in the wake of her apology, but as she’s embraced Chastain, she may also find herself held hostage to Chastain’s antics (just as she’s held hostage to Lewis’s antics). The Flaggers will have to determine whether they have an identity apart from Hathaway, or if they are held hostage to her lapses in judgment. The decisions reached on these matters will tell us a great deal about the future prospects of the Flaggers in Virginia; in turn, sincere advocates of Confederate heritage will have to ask themselves if they want to be represented in the public eye by the Confederate Hysteria Movement as embodied in the actions of Hathaway, Lewis, and Chastain, each of whom has displayed an alarming propensity for drawing attention to themselves at the expense of their “movement.”

            Hathaway would do well to offer her resignation and see if that news is met with a vote of confidence to keep her in office (I think she would be retained). Otherwise we’re left to wonder if she’s more interested in the movement or herself.

            Finally, there’s Rob Walker. The notion that he looked to discredit the movement by first gaining the trust of some of its leaders is ludicrous. Walker did great damage to himself. He comes across as a fool and a liar who fabricates stories about his own greatness. The VMFA and VCU are aware of this story, and it will be interesting to see how they respond. That Walker was seeking support from the VMFA while at the same time he sought to be a Flagger wannabe (someone will have to show me that there are formal membership requirements for this group, because only now are Flaggers disavowing an association they once embraced) is interesting, to put it mildly. No doubt those folks who favor conspiracy theories will find something in that.

    • Andy Hall May 13, 2013 / 8:35 am

      Hey, Mr. Taylor — you’re a retired Richmond police officer, are you not? Can you get and post a copy of the police report on this? I’m sure you will want to do this to substantiate claims made on behalf of Mr. Walker, if for no other reason to make the doubters look foolish.

      • Brooks D. Simpson May 13, 2013 / 8:48 am

        Apparently Mr. Taylor’s former employer offers no support for his position. Given that there would have been a record of the 911 call, I’d say he was premature in declaring “end of story.”

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