CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Both sides have now rested in a high profile Chesapeake murder trial, after the security guard at the center of the case took the stand Tuesday in his own defense.
Johnathan Cromwell was on duty when police say he shot and killed 60-year-old Jiansheng Chen in the River Walk community on Jan. 26, 2017. He had been on the job for two months.
During his testimony Tuesday morning, Cromwell said he was extremely remorseful about shooting Chen. Cromwell said he thought Chen was going to run him over and kill him.
His attorneys have maintained this wasn’t first-degree murder — and that Cromwell fired in self-defense.
“I shot, because I felt he was going to run me over,” Cromwell told the jury.
Cromwell says he was patrolling the clubhouse when a minivan pulled into the driveway.
He told the jury he noticed Chen was driving. He recognized Chen for citing him for trespassing 10 days before.
Prosecutors have argued the 60-year-old was just playing Pokemon Go on both occasions.
Cromwell says he got out to talk to Chen.
“I yelled ‘stop the vehicle’ and he shook his head no,” Cromwell added.
Cromwell says he didn’t have time to move out of the way of the oncoming van, so he fired.
“I was in the middle of the street at this point, and the vehicle stopped moving, so I stopped firing,” he said.
Chen was shot five times. Cromwell told the court Chen would have killed him if he didn’t pull the trigger.
Cromwell says he tried to give Chen first aid, but the injuries were too severe.
“The extent of his injuries were more than I could have handled at the scene,” Cromwell added.
The security guard was registered to have a gun. He told the court he was going to have Chen arrested, but never had that chance.
Cromwell says he felt remorse back then, and still does so today.
Prosecutors were quick to poke holes in Cromwell’s story.
“You created your own danger?” Chesapeake Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney DJ Hansen asked. “You could have stepped away?”
Cromwell told a detective the night of the incident he yelled 10-15 times for Chen to stop the car. In surveillance video shown to the jury, he only yelled three times.
“Can you explain why there are only three times?” Hansen asked Cromwell.
“I’m not an expert on this type of surveillance cameras,” Cromwell replied.
Prosecutors also said Cromwell confronted Chen at the Riverwalk clubhouse entrance and purposely put his body in front of the minivan.
“You were not going to let him leave the parking lot?” Hansen asked.
“I was trying to let him go,” Cromwell said.
Cromwell fired 10 shots.
Prosecutors asked Cromwell why only hours after the gun went off he questioned if his shots were grouped together. Cromwell didn’t have an answer.
Cromwell’s attorney Andrew Sacks told the jury this is a clear case of self defense. If convicted of first-degree murder, Cromwell could get life in prison.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday morning.