Newport News Police hold press conference after video shows man dragged out of vehicle during traffic stop

NN 30th Street and Roanoke Avenue traffic stop
Posted at 1:50 PM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 18:13:59-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The Newport News Police Department held a press conference at 2 p.m. Thursday regarding an arrest made earlier in the week.

Thursday's press conference referenced a Tuesday night arrest that occurred following a traffic stop on 30th Street and Roanoke Avenue. Eyewitness video from the scene showed Newport News Police officers dragging a man, identified as 31-year-old Lawrence Fenner, out of his vehicle; officers then tased Fenner when he resisted arrest.

According to Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew, officers were in the area of 30th and Roanoke when a vehicle drove by at an "accelerated rate of speed." Officers ran the vehicle's license plate, which came back as belonging to a different type of vehicle, then conducted a traffic stop.

As police parked their vehicles, Drew said officers saw the driver "lean over to his right to the passenger side of the vehicle, then pop back up."

Officers spoke to Fenner about the plate and asked him for his license, which Fenner said he did not have. The officers then spoke to Fenner for six minutes, Drew said. Officers asked him to step out of his vehicle; he was allegedly "unwilling" to do that.

Police attempted to remove Fenner from his vehicle. Fenner allegedly grabbed hold of the steering wheel while police attempted to pull him out of the vehicle; police then pulled him through the vehicle's passenger door, telling him he was under arrest for obstruction of justice.

Drew alleged that Fenner pulled one of the officers down as he was being removed from his vehicle, then a "wrestling match" occurred as police attempted to handcuff Fenner. Another officer was allegedly struck in the face.

Drew also said that this was not a "punching and kicking match, this was tugging and pulling," saying that strikes deployed against Fenner were in an attempt to make him let go of officers.

"I don’t believe Mr. Fenner was beat up, I believe the officers had to react to his actions," Drew said. "If Mr. Fenner would have stepped out of that vehicle, we would have checked that vehicle and he would have been on his way."

Fenner allegedly began to attempt to push up, and tasers were deployed against him. He was then taken into custody and brought to a nearby fire station to be treated by medics.

Fenner complained of "soreness" after being booked, Drew said. He was then taken to the hospital for treatment of his injuries; he was booked into the Newport News City Jail on Thursday.

Fenner has been charged with four counts of assault on law enforcement, obstruction of justice, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, concealed weapon and fraudulently altering or forging license plates.

Drew said that officers found a gun on the floor of Fenner's vehicle following his arrest. He also said that the officers' actions were all within the department's policies and guidelines, saying, "They followed the law."

The chief said he understands the perception of the video.

“I can see and understand concerns the community has, and some things that were being said, I can understand that, but I think it’s important to have content and narrative and to be open and transparent," he said.

News 3 has obtained several eyewitness videos from the scene, showing the event from various angles as it occurred. We have edited the audio on some of these videos to remove profanity.

Eyewitness video of Newport News traffic stop arrest

Fenner's wife Unique Fenner sent News 3 video showing the arrest. She told News 3 that her husband ran a red light, which she believed initiated the traffic stop.

Unique Fenner believes police's actions against her husband were excessive, saying her husband has bruises on his sides, a sprained ankle and wrist and scrapes on his knees.

"They need to be fired. All of the officers that put their hands on him and used excessive force when he was cooperating need to be fired, because it shouldn’t have gotten to the extent that it did," Unique Fenner said. "I am very, very distraught. I am very distraught. I can’t believe I watched my husband get beat up like that, and I’m screaming, 'Please stop!' and nobody’s stopping."

News 3 is working to learn more about this incident.