Jury recommends 30 years for former security guard convicted of murder

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CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A jury has recommended 30 years for former Chesapeake security guard Johnathan Cromwell after he was charged with second-degree murder last week. 

Jurors found 23-year-old Cromwell guilty of second-degree murder on Friday in connection to the shooting death of the 60-year-old Jiansheng Chen. The verdict came at the end of a trial that lasted more than a week.

It took 11 hours for the jury to convict Cromwell, and two hours for the sentencing. The jury recommended 27 years for his second-degree murder charge, and three years for an additional gun charge. 

Crowell was facing a minimum of eight years in prison and a maximum of 40 years. 

PREVIOUS: Families of Chen, Cromwell await sentencing phase of trial

Prosecutors argued Chen was playing the game Pokemon Go when Cromwell shot him in the Riverwalk community in 2017. However, the defense argued Chen used his car as a weapon, so Cromwell shot him in self-defense.

The jury also found Cromwell guilty on a charge of use of a firearm in a felony. Cromwell could spend anywhere from 8 to 45 years combined for both charges.

Holding a picture of her father, Jiansheng Chen’s daughter cried outside the courthouse.

“It doesn’t matter how long he’s there, it’s not going to change the fact that my uncle’s dead,” said Jason Chen, the victim’s nephew.

“We can now tell Mr. Chen justice has been served. He can now rest peacefully,” said Yuchong Shen, president of the East Virginia chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Cromwell’s mother, Kelley Henry, read a statement after the sentencing.

“Obviously we are disappointed. I’m sure if Johnathan had been given 10 hours to analyze his situation, he may have come to a different conclusion than he did in the seconds he had,” Henry said. “Our agenda going forward remains the same to support Johnathan in any way we can.”

The Commonwealth’s attorney, Nancy Parr, believes a surveillance video that captured audio of the shooting and the physical evidence proved their case.

“The position of the vehicle and the wheel of the vehicle and the fact that Mr. Chen’s foot was on the brake,” Parr said.

Defense attorney Andrew Sacks said he and Cromwell respect the jury’s decision but they feel pre-trial publicity made it hard to get a fair trial.

“He’s not angry. He’s not bitter. He was hopeful it would be different,” Sacks said. “We’re going to fight very hard to get that sentence reduced, modified. If it doesn’t happen in the trial court, we’re going to file an appeal.”

Formal sentencing by a judge is set for June 24. The judge could decide to add to or reduce the sentence after reviewing the case.

“It doesn’t matter how this jury goes or how this sentencing will be, nothing will bring him back,” Jason Chen said. “Not just my family, I think both families lost a lot.”

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