Family of Riverside Murder Victims to Sue Virginia Law Enforcement Agencies for Negligent Hiring

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Family of Riverside Murder Victims to Sue Virginia Law Enforcement Agencies for Negligent Hiring
June 7, 2023

Attorneys for the Riverside family have announced their intent to file a lawsuit against the employers of a deputy with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

This case would address the negligent hiring of the deputy who killed family members in Riverside last year. The family will seek over $100 million in damages from the two Virginia law enforcement agencies they claim responsible for hiring him.

According to law enforcement, the deputy “catfished” the 15-year-old girl residing in Riverside by pretending to be 17. After the girl refused to send nude pictures of herself, the deputy drove to Riverside, where he kidnapped the girl. However, he also killed the girl’s mother and grandparents. Before police could capture him, the 28-year-old officer killed himself.

Subsequent investigations discovered that the officer disclosed pertinent information during the hiring process. According to the reports, he admitted he spent time in a mental health facility in 2026. According to police records, this stay occurred because the officer threatened to kill himself and his father. This threat resulted in a temporary detention order and the revocation of his firearm rights.

A stay in a mental institution alone would not automatically disqualify him from employment as a Virginia state police officer. However, the revocation of firearm rights could have prevented it. Unfortunately, a mistake in the background check process prevented the employer from discovering this information. This error happened because an investigator failed to enter the correct code to search for “firearms” and “applicants.”

An attorney representing two family members will now seek $100 million in damages. They will also request a deeper explanation of why the employer hired the officer. In addition, they want to see changes to the policies governing the hiring of officers. The planned lawsuit alleges that the two law enforcement agencies demonstrated gross negligence, gross negligent hiring, supervision and retention, breach of mandatory duties, and violations of Virginia state law.

In addition to these proposed claims, a family member filed a separate tort claim against the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. This family member alleged negligence by the Office for failing to complete its own background investigation. The member believes the Office should not have relied on the Virginia State Police’s mental health evaluation before hiring him.

Employers, such as law enforcement, must perform due diligence in hiring. Failure can lead to significant liability, especially when an employee causes harm to others. Therefore, one of the most critical aspects of due diligence in hiring is performing accurate and comprehensive background checks. These checks can root out red flags, allowing employers to make educated hiring decisions and avoid unnecessary liability.

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