Defense, prosecution make opening statements in ‘Pokemon Go’ murder trial


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Defense attorneys and prosecutors made their opening statements Thursday in a high-profile murder trial in Chesapeake.

Johnathan Cromwell is accused of shooting and killing 60-year-old Jiansheng Chen in the River Walk community in January 2017.

Cromwell is faced with a first-degree murder charge for Chen’s shooting death. He was working as a security guard for Citywide Protection Services when he allegedly fired several times at Chen, who was inside a minivan at the time.

In court on Thursday, prosecutors painted the case as one of a grandfather who was playing the popular smartphone app Pokemon Go when he was shot and killed. Prosecutors said Cromwell fired 10 shots, hitting Chen five times — once in the arm and four times in the chest. 

“We don’t have any doubt in this case who did the shooting,” said Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attroney Lori Gailbraith. “Cromwell shot over and over and over again.”
In their opening statement, prosecutors alluded to a statement Cromwell made after the shooting in which he asked a detective about his grouping or the accuracy of his shooting.

On the other side, Cromwell’s defense argue he used justified force when he shot Chen.

His defense argued Chen was cited for trespassing in the same area the shooting happened just 10 days prior. They said Cromwell was on duty the night of the shooting when he saw Chen’s friend Chang in the same area where they were both cited. He then reportedly escorted Chang back to his house.

After that, Cromwell allegedly saw the minivan parked at the clubhouse. 

Cromwell’s defense argued Chen drove the van at Cromwell, using it as a weapon. They argued that since Chen was already cited, he was trying to elude security because he knew there would be penalties of up to a $2500 fine and a year in jail.

Jurors then heard the moment the shooting took place from neighbors security camera. 

“Stop! Stop! Stop!” Cromwell yelled.

There was then a series of gunshots.

“Put the car in park,” Cromwell yelled.  The defense said Cromwell put on gloves and tried to administer first aid to Chen after the shooting, tried to get a friend to call 911 and was cooperative with Chesapeake police officers.

Jurors heard from witnesses Thursday that included the officers who responded to the scene.

Cromwell’s trial began in earnest Thursday following a two-day jury selection process. A total of 81 potential jurors were brought in for the case — which is far more than normal. 

Defense attorney Andrew Sacks argued over the first two days about the importance of finding jurors who haven’t heard about this case and who can be fair to his client. Many of potential jurors remembered hearing about this case in some sort of fashion.

The pool of potential jurors was cut down to 12 jurors and two alternates by Wednesday afternoon.

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