Victim raises concerns on Portsmouth police response to drive-by shooting

Investigative

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A drive-by shooting ended with multiple rounds shot in a Portsmouth home in November.

10 On Your Side received a call about the incident from some who are critical of how the Portsmouth police handled the shooting response and investigation. The victim said they believe the officer gave clear indication the issue wasn’t urgent because no one was hurt. 

However, the victim, Juan King, says at least 21 bullets hit his house. He believes that should have made the matter a priority.

Portsmouth police gave 10 On Your Side video of a dark-colored sedan. On Nov. 18 at 8:45 p.m., you could see the car lining up down the street from Juan King’s home. In moments the car races down the street, probably two people in the car with guns.    

The gunfire lasts five seconds and is likely the work of two in the car who both had guns.  

King claims not to know anyone who would want to bring harm to his family or him.

“What we’re looking at here is a drive-by shooting,” said King, who counted at least 21 shots in his house. He even started counting the holes, up to 11 in one section. “And there’s more over here, and on that side too.

Some of the bullets went through the house.  

There were seven people in the house, and amazingly no one got hurt. King explained his good fortune for that.

“There’s only one explanation. Jesus had my back,” he said. 

He went inside and showed the bullet trajectory that went in the front of the house, just missed his wife at the kitchen sink, and then blew through the kitchen window. 

King called 911 after the shooting happened.

“I said can you send someone out here? ‘Well, it’s kind of busy right now,’” he claims they said.  

Just moments before King’s incident, there was a shooting in Cradock with a personal injury that received a “priority one” response. And all the police response that comes with that.    

“I guess they were kinda too busy for me… It took 34 minutes to get police to my scene,” he said. 

10 On Your Side asked Portsmouth Interim Police Chief Scott Burke whether he thought a 34-minute response for 21 shots fired into a man’s home is too long a response time.

“Not necessarily,” he responded.  

His answer is that because 911 dispatch called the nature of the call a “priority three” with no one hurt, and a slower response is acceptable.  

“A priority three, it’s already occurred and suspects are no longer on scene and no one is hurt… We are short-staffed by about 70 officers, but this is not a major reason for the response time, but it is a contributing factor,” he said, 

Portsmouth 911 took the call at 8:49 p.m., but did not dispatch anyone until 9:25 p.m. Police were en route at 9:26 p.m. and arrived on scene at 9:34 p.m. So, much of the delay in responding is due to Portsmouth 911. Portsmouth police remained on scene for one hour and 18 minutes. 

10 On Your Side reached out by phone and email to the Portsmouth Fire Department because they oversee the 911 call center. They did not respond. The eight minutes for police response is within the standard of “priority three” incidents.  

King thinks that is wrong, even if it is standard policy. He was most concerned with the attitude the arriving officer had toward his case.

“He did not seem to care… He said it will be an inactive case because with drive-bys there’s not enough evidence… I interpreted that he doesn’t care… If nobody got shot it’s just a misdemeanor, like they got other things to do.” 

A drive-by is routinely treated as a misdemeanor offense, if no one is hurt with property damage only. 

“I felt like they were blowing off the situation? Oh yeah. It felt like they got bigger fish to fry,” King said.

We asked the chief about that.

“I am sorry we gave the impression that we were blowing anything off… I would have phrased it better, perhaps… It’s probably an emotional response by the officer instead of a thought-out, planned … approach.” 

King showed us the bullet trajectory through his bedroom in the front of the houe and out the back window, through the kitchen, one that went up the stairs, and through the living room.  

King wasn’t the only one to hear the gunfire.

“I was actually looking at the draft when I heard all the gun shots,” he said.

King’s neighbor is Portsmouth Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes, who heard those shots too, and went to King’s house.

10 On Your Side asked the vice mayor whether he was pleased with the officer’s response.  

“Um, honestly I was not pleased,” he said.  

We told Burke about the vice mayor’s concerns, that the officer should have had better manners for people who may be traumatized by a drive-by and the psychological scars that can leave.

“He is correct,” the chief said.  

The vice mayor is concerned about that “only a misdemeanor” comment too.

“The police never should have said anything of that nature to anybody, because anything involving going on with gunshots going into your house is serious, whether someone was shot or not… It shouldn’t matter if no one was hit, that is a serious matter,” he said. 

Following 10 On Your Side’s investigation, we’re told this case is now considered a felony due to the seriousness of the event. Several shell casings are also now in evidence. 

The chief said he cares about transparency and told us his department needs to be the biggest example of customer service.

“We have an obligation to treat people with dignity and respect and courtesy. I know they don’t think that happened in this case… On behalf of the department, my apologies, for how the conversation was phrased. We are certainly improving our customer service, and look to continue to improve it, and I hope this doesn’t happen in the future,” he said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP (1-888-562-5887) or submit a tip online.

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