Police chief: Suspect stunned, struggled with officers before shot

Walter J. Brown III, 29, of Portsmouth (Photo courtesy family members of Brown)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth’s police chief said a drug suspect struggled with his officers and was hit by a stun gun twice before the fatal shots were fired Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, the suspect was identified by police as 29-year-old Walter J. Brown III, of Portsmouth.

The whole incident happened in about 15 minutes and began as a drug investigation near Southside Gardens apartment complex near Seventh and Madison streets. Detective Misty Holley, a spokeswoman for Portsmouth police, said that’s where Brown fled from detectives in a vehicle, leading officers on a five-mile chase.

Just a few hours later, Portsmouth Police Chief Edward Hargis addressed the media and described the course of events that led to Brown being killed.

Video: Police chief outlines fatal officer-involved shooting

Hargis said the vehicle pursuit ended when Brown drove into the front yard of the residence at 19 Colin Drive. He said Brown got out of his vehicle and tried to run inside the home. Neighbors and family members confirm to WAVY.com that Brown lived at 19 Colin Drive.

“The primary officer in pursuit exited his vehicle and initiated a very short foot chase and deployed his Taser towards the suspect as he was attempting to get into the house,” Hargis said. “The Taser had no impact on the suspect and a struggle ensued.”

Walter Brown
Walter Brown

Hargis said the two entered the house, went into a living room, down a small hallway, then into a bedroom. Two backup officers followed.

“A second officer, one of the backup officers, deployed his Taser, and again, there was no impact on the individual at that time,” Hargis said.

Brown kept struggling with the officers, until, according to Hargis, Brown pulled out a handgun. Hargis said officers yelled, “gun,” and tried to get the weapon. He said they also tried to grab Brown’s hands.

“As this was occurring, one officer discharged his service weapon, firing approximately three to five shots,” Hargis said.

Police say Brown was fatally wounded and pronounced dead at the scene at 2:40 p.m.

Hargis said there was one other occupant of the house at the time of the struggle and shooting. He could not give any other details about that person, but said neither that person nor the officers were hurt. WAVY News’ Liz Palka spoke to Brown’s wife, who said she was the other person in the house and witnessed the shooting.

Photos: Portsmouth officer-involved shooting

At the scene along Colin Drive, WAVY News’ Lex Gray reported the parking lot of Bethany Baptist Church was sectioned off by crime scene tape. She spoke with Pastor Mike Ellis, who described what he saw when police arrived.

“The first car that came had a very loud siren. We went outside and there were about three police cars … then immediately after that they were coming in clumps of four and five, we counted 25 and then we stopped counting,” Ellis said. ” … They were parking, jumping out of their vehicles, first aid kits and things, and then more and more unmarked cars and detective cars and stuff and they roped the area off.”

Ellis said the neighborhood is “fairly docile” and the police commotion indicated something very serious had happened. “It’s a little scary, a little nervous, hoping that the situation is under control,” he said.

Another neighbor on Colin Drive said she was on her way out to her front porch when she started hearing sirens. Delores Harper said she saw a Portsmouth police officer brake quickly in front of her house, quickly exit an unmarked police cruiser and take off running.

“A cop jumped out and went running down the street holding his gun,” Harper said. “And then there was police cars everywhere.”

Another neighbor said she saw multiple police officers enter Brown’s home with their guns drawn.

During the Tuesday evening press conference, Hargis said the passenger of the suspect vehicle (who got out of the vehicle near the apartment complex) was being interviewed by detectives and had not been charged.

Family members of Brown told WAVY.com at the scene that shooting Brown should not have been an option. “Death is not right,” said Shemia Ward, a relative of Brown.

Family members questioned why the officer needed to shoot Brown if there were so many officers and only one suspect. Brown’s wife also said she did not see her husband pull out a gun during the struggle. Hargis said a gun was recovered from the crime scene.

The three officers who entered the house are currently on administrative leave, pending the outcome of both an administrative investigation and criminal investigation.

Police said the stun guns officers used are equipped with video and audio recording capability, so detectives would be looking at what was recorded.

You can count on WAVY.com to bring you the latest details of this incident, as the investigations move forward.

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