Family of teen shot by Portsmouth PD officer plans to sue

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PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) — The attorney for a teen shot by a Portsmouth Police officer announces plans to sue, the same day the officer was arrested on criminal charges from the 2017 incident. 

“I think it’s safe to say that the lawsuit will be coming next week,” said S.W. Dawson, the attorney hired to represent 19-year-old Deontrace Ward. “My client believes he needs to be compensated for his injuries.”

Ward was shot in the arm and lower abdomen by Portsmouth Police Officer Jeremy Durocher on October 29, 2017. 

The shooting was recorded on Durocher’s body camera and Durocher can be heard yelling “He has a gun! He has a gun!” before firing at Ward, who was suspected of burglarizing a home on Tatum Avenue. 

Ward, who was armed, was taken into custody and eventually pleaded guilty to five felonies in the case. He’s serving a six-year prison sentence

On Thursday, Durocher was indicted in Portsmouth Circuit Court on charges of aggravated malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Grand jurors presented that Durocher intended “to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill” Ward through his actions. 

“The family certainly believes and Mr. Ward believes and I believe that this is an encouraging development,” Dawson said of the charges. “Putting a dollar figure on this is what will get not only this officer’s attention to make sure, if he ever has the chance, that he won’t do this to anyone else again. But also the city, and the police department to make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen again. This is how you get the attention of people in power.”

The Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police President Matt Crutcher strongly disagrees.

“He did everything by the book exactly like he was trained to do, just like me or any of these other officers that were out here or in here today, or any other law enforcement office in the country,” Crutcher said. 

In June 2018, Portsmouth Police awarded Durocher with a Medal of Valor for his actions in response to the robbery. 

“You took necessary steps to stop the threat that this suspect posed to the public and to your fellow officers at great personal risk,” Chief Tonya Chapman wrote in the award. 

Dawson joined the Portsmouth Police Department in 2016 after serving in the U.S. Navy. 

“Biggest thing that I found is how he talks to people, how he can de-escalate,” Crutcher said. “Just how I said in [court], when you can passionately talk to people on a consistent basis and always always de-escalate situations, that is what we are looking for that is all we want.”

Durocher has remained employed since the 2017 shooting, but has been off the streets. A spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the future of his job on Friday. 

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