Jury could start deliberations Thursday in Chesapeake ‘Pokemon Go’ murder trial

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CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The jury could start deliberating Johnathan Cromwell’s fate Thursday in the trial of the security guard accused of murder in Chesapeake.

Cromwell is charged with first-degree murder for shooting and killing 60-year-old Jiansheng Chen in River Walk community on Jan. 26, 2017.

On Tuesday, Cromwell took the stand in his own defense. Cromwell told the jury he is “extremely remorseful” and felt no pride about about shooting Chen.

During his testimony, Cromwell said he was standing in front of Chen’s minivan as it was coming right for him. “I shot, because I felt he was going to run me over,” he told the jury. 

Cromwell fired his gun 10 times, hitting Chen five times. He told jurors he went to see if he could help Chen after the shooting, but the injuries were too severe.

Defense attorney Andrew Sacks has argued Chen’s fatal shooting is a case of self-defense.

Prosecutors have argued Chen was a grandfather playing the smartphone game Pokemon Go prior to the confrontation with Cromwell.

In cross-examination, prosecutors tried to poke holes in Cromwell’s stroy.

Prosecutors said Cromwell confronted Chen at the River Walk clubhouse entrance and purposely put his body in front of the minivan.

Cromwell was asked why only hours after the gun went off he questioned if his shots were grouped together. Cromwell didn’t have an answer.

Both the defense and the prosecution have rested in the case.

“Ladies and gentleman, this was cold, this was calculated and violent,” said Chesapeake Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney DJ Hansen in the prosecution’s closing argument.

Hansen told the jury  Cromwell was a security guard who wanted to use his power simply because he could.

“This case is about Mr. Chen, a 60-year-old man who took a right turn that cost him his life,” Hansen added.

Hansen showed the jury a surveillance video from a neighbor’s camera of the shooting. The actual incident wasn’t captured on video, but you can hear it happen.

“From the beginning this defendant has claimed self defense, but it couldn’t have happened from the way he said it happened,” Hansen said.

Hansen analyzed the video second by second. In the video, Cromwell is heard telling Chen to stop the car three times followed by a series of gunshots.

Cromwell fired 10 times. Chen suffered five gunshot wounds.

Cromwell was working as a security guide for Citywide Protection Services.  He was registered with the Department of Criminal Justice and could carry a gun.

Prosectors claim Cromwell know it was Chen pulling into the clubhouse and he went to confront him.

Cromwell testified Tuesday that he got out of his car and Chen tried to pull away.  He felt as if Chen was going to run him over, so he fired.

“There is no way the vehicle was still moving,” Hansen said. “How could the vehicle be moving if Mr. Chen’s foot was on the break?”

Cromwell had said that when he went to give Chen first aid, his foot was still on the brake.

Prosecutors believe Cromwell put himself in danger by getting in front of Chen’s minivan and not moving out of the way.

“All Mr. Chen was trying to do was get away and he (Cromwell) was going to stop him with a gun and by any means,” Hansen added. “We have a malicious killing. 10 times he fired his gun and as a result Mr. Chen lost his life.”

Cromwell’s attorney Andrew Sacks says Chen knew he shoudn’t be at the clubhouse. because he was barred from there by Cromwell just 10 days before.

Sacks told he jury Cromwell didn’t know it was Chen in the van and he went to investigate who was turning into the clubhouse. He went on to say he only realized it was Chen when he got out of his patrol car.

“He fired because he believed he had to not because he wanted to,” Sacks said. “He was scared to death that a 4,700 pound vehicle was coming at him.”

Sacks told the jury the video only enhances the defense’s theory. He pointed out that after the shots were fired, Cromwell yells for Chen to put the car in park.

“He believed he was still alive,” Sacks added. “If he wanted to kill him, why didn’t he just keep shooting, empty his clip? Just let it go.”

Sacks said Cromwell was simply doing his job as a registered security officer with arresting powers.

“The prosecution has created more questions than answers in this case,” Sacks said.

If Cromwell is convicted of first-degree murder he could be sentenced to life in prison. The jury could also be considered first-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.

“There are no real winners in this,” Sacks added. “To compound this tragedy would be putting an innocent man in prison. That would be the ultimate American nightmare.”

Thursday morning, prosecutors will have a chance to rebuttal Sacks’ closing argument and then the case will go to the jury.

“They haven’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Sacks said. “It is not even close to that.”


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