CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The Chesapeake Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that it is pursuing criminal charges against Johnathan Cromwell, a security guard accused of shooting and killing 60-year-old Jiansheng Chen.
Warrants charge 21-year-old Cromwell with second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony for the Jan. 26 shooting. Cromwell, of the 200 block of S. Budding Avenue in Virginia Beach, turned himself in Thursday afternoon.
Chen was shot during an apparent confrontation with Cromwell.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office says Chen was driving a blue van around 11 p.m. that night when he turned into the driveway of the River Walk clubhouse parking area. After Cromwell saw the van, he confronted Chen and stopped his vehicle directly in front of Chen’s van.
According to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Chen then backed his van up and turned his vehicle around to the point that it was at the entrance of the driveway facing River Walk Parkway when he was shot.
Cromwell got out of his car and said “stop” before firing his weapon, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office says.
Chen’s family says the 60-year-old did not speak any English, and claim he was playing the popular smartphone game Pokemon Go at the time.
Chen had one gunshot wound to his left upper arm and four gunshot wounds to his upper left chest.
Chesapeake police responded to the scene and began investigating immediately.
On Jan. 27, the lead detective on the case asked the River Walk community manager whether or not there were cameras on the property and if there could be surveillance video of the shooting. The manager said there was one camera on the building, but it wasn’t working.
I have reviewed and discussed this evidence with the detective and Chief Wright. The decision to pursue these criminal charges is based solely on the evidence collected pursuant to the investigation which began on January 26, 2017 by the Chesapeake Police Department,” Chesapeake Commonwealth’s Attorney Nancy Parr said in a news release.
James Broccoletti, the attorney representing the Chen family, said, “They are very gratified that they are now one step closer to justice for their family and the Chinese community” and that the “Commonwealth’s Attorney and the police department concluded evidence exists” to go forward with a second degree murder charge.
Broccoletti also said that Chen’s family looks forward to proceeding with the criminal charges. He said a decision has not yet been made about pursuing any civil litigation, but the family will vigorously pursue all avenues.
There’s been outrage throughout the community since Chen’s death.
Cromwell was employed by a private security company, Citywide Protection Services, Inc.
Andrew Sacks, the attorney for the security company, has said that Cromwell acted in self-defense when he shot Chen.
In a statement issued Jan. 30, the River Walk Community Association said it has a contract for “unarmed roving patrol services.” However, Sacks said that Cromwell was allowed to be armed per Virginia regulations and the security contract.
Sacks released the following statement Thursday:
I remain counsel for Citywide Protection Services and we remain interested in seeing justice is done for their employee. On February 6, I issued a statement on behalf of Citywide Protection Services Inc. The company investigated the actions of its employee on its own. The company decided the actions were controlled and carried out in self-defense. They maintain that belief from their investigation.”
The nonprofit Asian Pacific American Advocates (OCA) said in a statement Friday that the organization supported the charges brought against Cromwell:
We support the charges filed against the killer of Jiansheng Chen, whose unwarranted death has been so hard on his family and the Virginia Asian community. We thank the community members who stood with us and the Chen family to demand justice, including Virginia State Delegates Ron Villeneuva and Mark Keam, and United States Representatives Bobby Scott, Donald McEachin, and Grace Meng.”
Police are still investigating this case.
This is a developing story. Stay with WAVY.com for continuing coverage.