NORFOLK -- Police say they've arrested a 16-year-old allegedly involved in the attack of two people who work for The Virginian-Pilot last month.
That announcement came during an 11:00 a.m. update on the investigation.
The teen is charged with two counts of simple assault by mob, throwing a missile at a car and destruction of property.
Police stated the incident was classified as a simple assault because the injuries were minor and no weapons were involved.
They stressed that the search continues for others involved in the attack of reporters Marjon Rostami and Dave Forster, who were in a car stopped at a red light on Church Street at Brambleton Avenue.
They say someone threw a rock at their car. Forster said he did a dumb thing and got out of the car and that's when he was punched in the face several times. Rostami said she was hit in the head, cheek, and eye when she tried to pull Forster back in the vehicle.
Rostami estimates there were as many as 30 people in the immediate area around Forster's car. About five people actually were involved in the attack, according to investigators.
This week, editorial writer Michelle Washington offered an opinion piece about the case, which the Pilot did not cover as news. Included in it was criticism about the way in which Norfolk police officers classified the incident and handled the attacks.
Editor of The Virginian-Pilot, Denis Finley, defended the way in which the paper handled the situation, explaining because police classified the case as "simple assault" and because neither Forster nor Rostami wished to be named in a story, the publication handled it as it would any similar crime involving anyone.
To read a memo about the incident and its coverage written by Finley, click here. The Virginian-Pilot's front page also will feature a column by Finley.
Wednesday evening, Norfolk Police Department released a statement about its investigation into the case and its communications with people at the paper:
The following information is intended to clarify a great deal of speculation and innuendo surrounding the assault that took place on the corner of Church St. and Brambleton Ave., While at the same time acknowledging that this is still an ongoing investigation and so specific details of the actual assault remain a part of that investigation.
FACT: On April 14th officers were dispatched at 11:08 PM to a reported assault occurring at the intersection of Church St. and Brambleton Ave. The first officer arrived on scene approximately one minute later at 11:09 PM. Paramedics responded as well and checked out both victims before clearing from the scene. At approximately 11:18 PM dispatchers broadcasted a large crowd of people getting ready to fight, possibly involving gunfire, in Young’s Terrace, a community that borders the Church St. Brambleton Ave. intersection. The officer on scene provided his card to the victims and advised them to leave the area for their own safety and well-being taking into account the ongoing volatility of the situation. The officer further instructed the victims, one of whom was still extremely emotional, and rightfully so, to contact him and he would complete the report.
FACT: On Monday afternoon, April 16th, both victims met with the officer and his Supervisor and the report was completed. Modifications and additions were made to the report as is common practice to any report once additional details come to light. On Tuesday the victims were interviewed by an investigator and their statements were taken again. The report was classified as a Simple Assault because there is not an Incident Based Reporting (IBR) code for Mob Assault. Just because a report is classified as a Simple Assault, that does not preclude the suspects involved from being charged with Felony Mob Assault if warranted.
FACT: The case was assigned to an Investigator. Additionally, by Monday evening the School Resource Officers, Community Resource Officers, and Gang Unit Investigators that work that area had been contacted to begin the meticulous work of gathering information that may assist in the investigation.
FACT: The officer involved in this case has vehemently denied the quotes attributed to him in this editorial. I bumped into both victims at the Police Operations Center the Monday they met with the officer to complete the report. I advised both victims at that time that if they felt the officer’s conduct was unprofessional they should contact the Department’s Office of Professional Standards. To my knowledge that has not been done.
FACT: The motive for the assault remains under investigation, while it has been suggested to be racially motivated the facts, as we know them at this time, do not identify a clear motive beyond an individual confronting a group of males for throwing a rock at his car. The victims gave no statements suggesting that the suspects involved in the assault were doing so because of their race. Twitters sent after the fact made racial overtones and investigators are looking into those claims.
FACT: I had personally, been in contact with two reporters from the Virginia Pilot as well as the writer of this editorial over the previous two weeks. The information provided above was given to all three.
If you have any information on the attack, call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.