Manslaughter charge against guard who ‘tackled’ man at VCU pharmacy

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RICHMOND, Va. – An involuntary manslaughter charge has been brought against security guard George Brown Jr., accused of tackling 64-year-old Phillip Whitaker as he tried to fill his prescriptions at the VCU Medical ambulatory pharmacy.

The 67-year-old, former guard has been indicted on one count of involuntary manslaughter, on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, according to David Powell, with the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s office. Powell said he does not believe Brown has turned himself in yet.

Brown was contracted by VCU Medical through LEW & Associates, who released a statement shortly after the news broke. They said that Brown had been terminated once he was indicted.

Officers discovered Whitaker unconscious on the floor with a serious head injury, according to Richmond Police, who took over the case at the request of Virginia Commonwealth University.

He died two days after the encounter, on August 9.

Police maintained from the beginning that more charges would likely be pressed.

“I just remember hearing the loud thump, it was so loud,” witness Joana Suarez said.

She said she did not see what happened next, but talked to others in line who had. Whitaker’s family said this was the second time he was called back up, because he needed to correct an issue with his prescription.

“He [a witness] said, ‘Oh, Philip didn’t want to wait at the back of the line, and he told the guard and there was a problem there and that’s where the guard tackled him down,’” Suarez said. “He should have still been alive.”

When Suarez saw Whitaker on the floor, she said he was unresponsive and unconscious.

“The guard was standing right beside him and he seemed really agitated,” she said. “His face kind of angry in a way.”

Suarez said the guard was not coming to Whitaker’s aid.

“He was just standing beside him. Everyone else was coming to Philip’s aid but he was not,” Suarez said.

LEW & Associates released a statement one week after the fatal encounter saying that Brown had been suspended.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Whitaker," the statement concluded.

Phillip Whitaker with his family. PHOTO: Family credit

Phillip Whitaker with his family. PHOTO: Family credit

Whitaker, a Henrico resident, had just celebrated his 64th birthday on June 30. He was a retired carpenter with four children – two daughters, two sons — and five grandchildren.

He lost his wife Karen Ann Whitaker the day before Thanksgiving 2013 after she was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer driver as she left work.  She was a beloved daycare teacher at Four Mile Creek Baptist church.

A big rig driven by Clarence Risher, a man police said had a slew of driving offenses, t-boned Whitaker’s Ford Mustang along New Market Road.

People with information that may be helpful to the investigation are asked to call Major Crimes Detective Michael Gouldman at (804) 646-3915 or Crime Stoppers at 780-1000. Citizens may also text Crime Stoppers at 274637, using the key word “ITip” followed by your tip. Both Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.