PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth officer accused of hitting and killing a man with his police cruiser last year has been acquitted of any wrongdoing.
The collision happened in May 2014 on Portsmouth Boulevard at Woodstock Street. The victim, Sansage Weera, died at the scene.
Police confirmed the officer, William Watts, was acquitted Thursday of a reckless driving charge related to the crash.
The acquittal comes as the dash-cam video from Watts’ cruiser was released for the first time, showing the last moments of Weera’s life. The video is a little grainy, but you can easily see a figure in the frame crossing in front of the officer’s path.
Weera was known as “Chili” at the Seven Cities Food and Deli, where he worked for years. He lived near where he was killed, and was on the way to the laundromat when his life came to a sudden tragic end.
The infrared technology in night vision makes the dash camera video look brighter than it really was. It was very dark that night, and in the video, Weera suddenly comes into the frame, darting out across Portsmouth Blvd. He rolls across the hood of the car. You don’t hear Weera say anything, but you hear Officer Watts yelling an expletive, then calling for a supervisor and medical assistance.
“He was driving in a normal manner around the speed limit, and it was an unfortunate accident. It could happen to anyone. It was not his driving that caused the accident,” said Ali Sprinkle, Watts’ attorney.
Last May, WAVY.com showed Watts’ patrol car with clear damage to the hood. The prosecutor tried to build the case that Watts was driving 10 to 11 miles over the 35 mph speed limit, but the judge agreed with Sprinkle’s defense.
“We argued the GPS was not reliable. There was no one there to testify whether the GPS in the vehicle was reliable, and there were some other calculations the prosecution introduced,” Sprinkle said.
Officer Watts said he didn’t see Weera. He also admits was looking to the right at some individuals in a shopping area that is known for crime.
“No, I do not think it was negligent,” Sprinkle said. “Again, he said he glanced over to the right and saw the people and was actually looking straight forward when the incident occurred.”
Weera’s wife, Davetta, is suing Watts in civil court for wrongful, negligent death. Last May, she told WAVY.com, “We came out here, and a couple of people saw where it all had happened and said police were flying down the street, no [emergency] lights on, and hit him.”
One of Mr. Weera’s friends, Pete Hampton, said, “That is unfair. I don’t think he deserved to have the death go unpunished. I don’t think that guy should be able to get away with that.”
On Thursday, the judge also said Watts should not face a lesser charge of improper driving. Officer Watts took the stand in his own defense. He remains on administrative duty at the Portsmouth Police Department, pending the outcome of the city’s accident review board.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT – Unedited video of the accident, showing the moment of the impact.