PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A group of Portsmouth residents and the local NAACP branch gathered Thursday evening for a peace rally, following two recent police-involved deaths.
The rally and march was held outside the Frederick Boulevard Wal-Mart. That’s the parking lot where 18-year-old William Chapman was killed in an officer-involved shooting two weeks ago.
Sgt. Michelle Anaya with Virginia State Police said Chapman was suspected of shoplifting from the Wal-Mart Wednesday, April 22. Anaya said an officer approached Chapman in the parking lot and a struggle started. At some point during the altercation, Anaya said the officer shot Chapman. She said the officer immediately called for medical rescue, but Chapman died at the scene.
Chapman’s cousin, Earl Lewis Jr., attended Thursday’s rally on behalf of his family. “We just want answers,” Lewis said. “That’s all we want.”
The NAACP is calling for transparency in the Chapman case and another officer-involved shooting in late March. Police say an officer followed William Brown into his home after a vehicle pursuit. At the time, Police Chief Ed Hargis said Brown ran into his house as the officer deployed his Taser, which had no impact. Hargis said there was a struggle between Brown and the officer, and two backup officers followed into the house.
“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 in March.
Hargis said Brown then pulled out a handgun, and officers tried to get it from him. At that point, Hargis said an officer fired three to five shots at Brown.
NAACP President James Boyd has asked state police, the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s attorney, as well as Portsmouth police to release any information that won’t hurt the investigation. Hargis has said they cannot release anything on the two shootings until state police have finished their investigations.
Many of the speakers at Thursday’s rally said they are encouraging people in the community to stand together.
Michelle Glesper is one of the people who was heading to Wal-Mart to shop when she saw the crowd gathered. She decided to listen in. Glesper said, she wants to support them because she would hope the community would do the same for her, if she lost a family member.
“If it was someone that I cared about, I would want them to do the same for me,” Glesper said. “We need to work together and take care of the city and the people that live in the city.”
Several Portsmouth police officers showed up Thursday night, in what seemed like support of the peaceful demonstration. The officers gave the marchers their own police escort.
— Liz Palka (@lizpalka) May 7, 2015