NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) –The Norfolk Medical Examiner’s Office released the official cause of death of an Old Dominion University student who was attacked early Sunday.
The Medical Examiner said 20-year-old Paul Johnson died from blunt head trauma. Police said he was hit in the head while walking in the 1000 block of W. 48th Street. According to the original ODU campus alert, the incident happened around 1 a.m. at 4814 Hampton Blvd. A spokesperson for the university confirmed Johnson was a sophomore majoring in mathematics.
In light of the attack, Norfolk police said the department will heighten police visibility around campus and provide more resources to ODU Police to help bolster safety within the community:
Norfolk Police continues its on-going partnership with Old Dominion University Administration, and the Old Dominion University Police Department, for the safety of all citizens that reside on and around Old Dominion University … the community partnership with both Departments is a necessary and vital component for sharing details regarding any suspicious activity.
“You will be able to see more police officers,” said Officer Daniel Hudson. “What we want is our citizens to see those marked cars out there.”
Hudson added he wants students to be able to see more police present in the area in conjunction with ODU police. He said the police department is also adding more officers to the area who will be in unmarked cruisers, some who will not be in uniform.
“We all want to be on the same page,” said Hudson. “And relay to the citizens and the students out there that we’re doing what we can to make their home, their place that they work, their place that they play, a safer place to be.”
Monday, officers arrested two suspects in the investigation of Johnson’s death. David William Grimm, Jr., 21, was charged with second degree murder, while Christopher Chase Johnson, 20, turned himself into authorities on a charge of misdemeanor assault.
According to investigators, Paul Johnson is not related to Christopher Johnson.
Norfolk Police responded to the area after receiving reports of an assault in progress, according to a police spokesman. Investigators said the assault happened near a 7-Eleven, although the 7-Eleven was not involved.
WAVY News’ Liz Palka spoke to a student who said he witnessed the entire attack. He said he heard arguing, looked out his window and saw a group of men. He said there appeared to be a handful of people in the group and they were all arguing.
The witness, who is also an ODU student, said he watched as the victim walked away from the group. As Johnson was walking away, the witness said he saw another man come up from behind him and punch him in the back of the head. Johnson fell to the ground and the suspect continued to hit him with his elbow. Johnson was continuously dropped by the suspects.
ODU President John R. Broderick issued the following statement after Monday’s arrests:
Words cannot express our shock and grief at the senseless loss of ODU student Paul Johnson. Such violence has no place in education, and the Old Dominion community will not tolerate it. I am extremely grateful to the Norfolk Police, and their joint investigative efforts with ODU Police that led to the quick arrests of two suspects. I also want to acknowledge the many students who provided information and assistance to the investigation. Our work, however, does not and will not end here. The City of Norfolk and Old Dominion have pledged to work with the campus and neighboring communities to address issues of concern.
Several ODU students were mourning the loss of Johnson on social media and talking amongst themselves Sunday. Many students said they didn’t know Johnson, but they felt like they had lost someone they knew just by losing a member of the community.
“[He's] definitely someone who walked the same streets as I did,” said Andrew Bass, a sophomore at ODU. “The same hallways, same school same building. I didn’t know him. But I could have passed by him and now he’s gone.”
When medics and police arrived after the attack, Johnson was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. He was pronounced dead Sunday afternoon.
ODU senior Justin Sethi said he rushed to the hospital when he heard what happened.
“We got a call from his roommate that if we wanted to see him now was the time,” Sethi said. “It was something I had to do for myself. Paul was a genuinely good kid. No one ever had anything bad to say about him. It’s just terrible what happened.”
On Monday afternoon, students left flowers near the attack scene on 48th Street. One student, who didn’t want to share her name, said the victim was her best friend: “He was really an amazing person. He made everyone laugh. He played the drums. I know his family, like all of his five brothers looked up to him. He made a lot of people feel great about themselves and he was just amazing, I can’t even believe that this has even happened.”
ODU confirms a candlelight vigil for Paul Johnson is planned for Wednesday, February 26 at 7 p.m. on Kaufman Mall.
Student Body President Collin Hust told WAVY.com he is in the process of organizing a safety forum, involving university and student leaders. Hust said he wants to have a discussion on Sunday’s assault and what the university can do moving forward.
Sunday’s assault comes one week after someone shot an ODU student. The shooting happened near an off campus apartment on Bowdens Ferry Road last Sunday morning. Police have not made any arrests. The student is expected to be okay.
The ODU Police Department is asking anyone with information regarding the incident or who may have visited other businesses in the area around the time of the attack to call ODU Police at 757-683-4000 or the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.
ODU Safety Timely Warning sent to students on Sunday night:
Dear Campus Community,
The Norfolk Police Department, with the assistance of the Old Dominion University Police Department, has been conducting an intensive investigation of the early morning assault of Old Dominion student Paul Johnson, who passed away this afternoon from his injuries.
Warrants have been secured charging two individuals, who are not affiliated with ODU, in this incident:
David William Grimm Jr., 21 years old, charged with 2nd Degree Murder, and Christopher Chase Johnson, 20 years old, charged with Misdemeanor Assault.
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information or who may have witnessed this incident is requested to contact the Norfolk Police Department homicide section at 664-7023 or the Old Dominion Police at 683-4000.
Old Dominion University Police would like to thank the campus community for its assistance in providing information to help solve this crime.
Rhonda L. Harris
Chief of Police