Special grand jury to review Norfolk fatal police shooting

David Latham (Photo provided by family friend Michael Muhammad)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The family of a mentally ill man shot by Norfolk police have many questions about the night their loved one died. Nearly a year later, they may finally get some answers.

City prosecutors have called a special grand jury to review the case of 35-year-old David Latham, who was shot eight times by a Norfolk police officer, including twice in the chest and twice in the back.

Document: Norfolk CA special grand jury announcement

In June, family members called 911 for help because Latham had a knife and was threatening his brothers. When officers arrived at Latham’s home on West 30th Street, police say Latham was blocking the doorway to the residence. Police say he refused to drop the knife and threatened an officer. The officer fired his gun. Latham later died at a local hospital.

A seven-member jury will now determine if the force used by police that afternoon was necessary. It’s a decision prosecutors don’t make very often. In fact, the last time a special grand jury was called in for a Norfolk police shooting was in 2008.

Family members say Latham has a history of mental illness, that he was schizophrenic and paranoid. They said when they called 911 for help with Latham, they told dispatchers he was mentally ill and not on his medication. They say the shooting was unnecessary.

10 On Your Side spoke with Latham’s family after the shooting in June. They said the officer followed Latham back into his home and kept shooting.

“At the door, right at the door, three times, and while he’s laying on the kitchen floor, he is still being shot. You wouldn’t do a dog that way,” said Barbara Latham-White, David Latham’s aunt.

On Wednesday, the family’s attorney, John Cooper, told WAVY.com he believes this case is clear cut excessive force.

“We’ve been waiting for eight or nine months now, for some decision to be made as to what they were going to do,” Cooper said.

Court document: Order to impanel special grand jury

Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood conducted a lengthy investigation into the incident before deciding to hand the case over to a special grand jury. Seven Norfolk citizens will be called to serve as members of the jury, and they will also decide if the officer should face any criminal charges.

“At least the grand jury is going to have an opportunity to hear all the evidence and make a decision about whether or not this officer violated the law when this death occurred,” Cooper said.

After Underwood’s announcement on Wednesday, Norfolk Police Chief Michael Goldsmith released the following statement:

I recognize the special grand jury is an essential part of the legal process.  My department, along with the rest of the community, await the special grand jury’s decision.  My officers will continue to work hard to protect our communities and work collaboratively with our neighbors as we continue to build strong relationships.

The grand jury will meet in a couple months. The officer who shot and killed Latham is still on administrative leave at the Norfolk Police Department.

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