Early one morning in January 2006, Billy Thigpen was fatally shot in front of his home. But the incident does not appear on the Richmond Police Department's public Crime Incident Information Web site.
The man who shot him was Richmond Police Officer Everett Woolums. The police contend that Thigpen, pulled over by Woolums, attempted to flee and appeared to be reaching for a weapon, though no firearm was found on the scene. Nevertheless, the Richmond common-wealth's attorney decided during the summer that the officer was justified in his use of deadly force and didn't prosecute him.
In the eyes of the state it counts as a justifiable homicide, not murder. But the distinction still doesn't explain the case's absence on the city Web site.
On May 5 of last year, a Richmond officer shot and killed Tony Wood on the 3900 block of Jefferson Davis Highway. Wood had taken the police on a high-speed car chase and finally got out of the car flashing what police later learned was a fake gun. The incident appears on the police Web site in the category of homicide, further classified as "justifiable." (A Jan. 3 Back Page in Style did not include either man's name in the list of murders for 2006.) Including Wood and Thigpen in the 2006 homicide count brings the total to 83, not 81, as previously reported in Style.
A Richmond Police spokesperson says there may be a glitch in the process of updating crime incident data, but for some the omission's symbolic significance is troubling.
"Homicide is the killing of a person. You're saying a person wasn't killed," says David Hicks, the attorney representing the Thigpen family. "Just because the police shoot you doesn't mean you're not a person." SClick here for more News and Features