“We’re going to search this one a little differently because of who he is,” Lt. Steven Drew had said to the FADE squad in a briefing at the 2nd Precinct a half-hour earlier. “There is nothing dynamic about this at all,” he stressed. And he instructed them: “If you move something, put it back. Be careful what you say.”
Troubles pepper Richardson’s past. In 1995, after being arrested on a heroin distribution charge, he resigned the 5th District council seat he had held for 18 years. He served 22 months in prison and was released in October 1997. Style interviewed Richardson for a cover story in 2002 about his efforts, as a felon, to have his voting rights restored and to return to Richmond politics.
Investigators spent weeks gathering details from an informant who claimed that Richardson’s son, Karl, 34, had been growing numerous marijuana plants in the basement. Then police obtained a warrant to search the premises.
Richardson and his wife, Phyllis, were the only ones in the house when police arrived. When told of the warrant, he seemed cooperative, leading police around back to the basement apartment where his son apparently lives, saying the door was unlocked. It wasn’t. Officers breached the door with a ramming device, shattering it.
“God damn,” Richardson muttered softly. He turned away from the house, took a few steps toward the garage where the couple’s Mercedes was parked and walked back again.
“Police! Search warrant!” the officers exclaimed one by one upon entering, then disappeared. A basement window had been boarded over. Three large exhaust pipes stemmed from the patio and rested on the back of a blanketed air-conditioning unit.
Dressed in a black T-shirt and black jeans, his hair in a ponytail, Richardson gazed on, visibly upset.
The scent of marijuana was unmistakable. “He knew,” an officer remarked of whether Richardson was aware of the plants, adding: “You can smell the pot from the door.”
Outfitted with latex gloves, investigators combed the premises for several hours, some using digital cameras to document the scene. They retrieved apple-green marijuana plants ranging in height from several inches to several feet and placed them in black plastic bags, ready for the evidence room.
Eventually, Karl Richardson arrived and police seized him. They charged him with possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. They charged his father with possession of heroin.
Shortly before 11 p.m., Chuck and Karl Richardson left the house in handcuffs, the senior’s brown leather jacket draped over his shoulders. Phyllis Richardson watched her husband and son taken away, one hand propped open the porch door, the other fallen to her side.
“This was a low-entry search warrant,” explained Sgt. Anthony Franklin of what police here called a soft approach. “This has nothing to do with him personally.” — Brandon Walters
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