BY KEITH EPPS
As far as anyone knows, Reginald "Neli" Latson had committed no crime when he ran into Stafford Deputy Thomas Calverley May 24.
By the time that encounter was over, Calverley was in a lot of pain and the 18-year-old Latson was in a lot of trouble.
Latson is charged with malicious wounding on a law enforcement officer and assault on a law enforcement officer.
Judge Sarah Deneke sent the charges to a Stafford grand jury following a preliminary hearing yesterday in Stafford General District Court.
Latson's case has received national attention in part because his mother, Lisa Alexander, has launched an Internet campaign accusing Stafford authorities of racial profiling and insensitivity.
Alexander said her son has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and should be home receiving care instead of being locked up in the Rappahannock Regional Jail under no bond. Two attempts at securing a bond for Latson have failed.
Alexander has also accused Calverley of instigating the altercation by using racial slurs and other comments.
Stafford officials deny the allegations and say Latson was arrested simply because of his actions.
No racial allegations or questions about autism were brought up in court yesterday.
According to police and testimony, the May 24 incident began at 8:37 a.m. when the Sheriff's Office got a call about a man sitting outside the Porter Library near Park Ridge Elementary School with a gun.
Schools in the area were locked down and a manhunt began. It wasn't until later that police learned that the initial caller wasn't sure he'd seen a gun.
Calverley, a school resource officer at North Stafford High School, said he saw a young men fitting the suspect's description coming out of the woods toward the high school about 20 minutes later.
Calverley testified that he drove up near Latson and said, "Hey, what's up man?" He said Latson responded that he had overslept, but later acknowledged that he wasn't a student at North Stafford.
After determining that the suspect had no weapon, Calverley said he asked the young man for his name. He said the suspect became agitated, cursed and accused the deputy of harassing him.
The two then got into a wrestling match after Calverley told Latson he was under arrest for refusing to provide his identity.
The wrestling match became increasingly physical, and Calverley estimated that he was punched in the head 25 times or more.
The deputy said he was dazed, but eventually was able to unleash his pepper spray. But he said the punches kept coming and the suspect got the spray away from him.
Calverley said he got the spray back and tossed it to the side. He was finally able to call for help, which came a short time later.
Before leaving the high school property, Calverley said, Latson cursed at him again and spit in his face.
Calverley said he spent four days in the hospital after the incident. Among his injuries were multiple fractures to his ankle, a large gash in the back of his head and multiple cuts and abrasions. He has been unable to return to work.
Latson was arrested about 45 minutes after the incident and has been in custody ever since.
As is customary in preliminary hearings, no evidence was put on by defense attorney John Mayoras. A grand jury will decide whether to indict Latson on Aug. 2.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404