CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A jury has found a Norfolk police officer not guilty during the retrial in the fatal shooting of a Chesapeake man in 2020.
It took the jury around two hours to come to a unanimous decision. The jury was polled after a request from the Commonwealth and each juror agreed on the verdict.
Hoyt’s first trial in the fatal shooting of Kelvin White during a confrontation in January 2020 ended in a mistrial.
Hoyt was visibly emotional after the jury left. His attorney said a weight was lifted off his shoulder.
“It’s a relief. This is what we have been waiting on since it happened. The cloud that had hung over Ryan Hoyt since that day has been lifted. The juror heard the evidence. They paid attention throughout this trial as diligently as the last trial,” Hoyt’s attorney, Mario Lorello said. “They accepted what Ryan Hoyt has said from the very beginning. That he was going out there to defend his wife. That he was going out there to defend his family. He never went out there with any sort of ill will, any sort of malicious, any sort of intent to cause harm. Now, he feels relief and is ready to return to work with the Norfolk Police Department.”
Kelvin White’s family hired Attorney Amina Matheny-Willard to ask the Chesapeake Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Hamel to upgrade Hoyt’s charge to murder, following the hung jury. Hoyt was charged with voluntary manslaughter in the retrial.
White’s family said the verdict wasn’t justice.
“He was a brother, a son, a nephew and a cousin to many. Kelvin was a big teddy bear,” said Bertha White, Kelvin White’s aunt.
“Justice was not served. He provoked my nephew and the jurors didn’t pay that any attention. The lady called her husband out there to start this confusion. He had just as much right for that sidewalk as she had. She could have gone around, or when he got there, he could have took his family right on home,” Dorothy White, Kelvin White’s aunt, said.
Hoyt is a Norfolk police officer and was off duty at the time when he received a call from his wife about a man, White, threatening her. He has claimed self-defense and maintained White had a knife and was coming close to him.
His wife, Jessica Hoyt, said on the stand she wanted to surprise Hoyt with Spanish rice. She walked about 10 minutes to the Bainbridge Boulevard Food Lion.
She brought the couple’s two kids in an in-line stroller.
While walking on the narrow sidewalk, she said she saw a man coming towards her. She expected him to let her through with the stroller. When he didn’t move, she said, “excuse me.”
She said White took additional steps toward her stroller and she felt scared.
She characterized White as “intimidating” and “aggressive.”
Jessica Hoyt talked about how difficult it was to maneuver the stroller. She said she was afraid it would tip over if she took it off the sidewalk.
She continued to explain how scared she was. She eventually told White she had made. After the comment, she said White uttered, “I have a knife and I’ll stab you in the face.”
She then called her husband for help.
Hoyt took the stand and said he felt it was important for the jury to hear his side. He said he had no ill intent on January 19.
He said he got a phone call from his wife where she sounded terrified. He thought she said a man stabbed her in the face.
Hoyt said he got there as fast as he could.
When he got to the area, he said he took out his weapon and gave White verbal commands. He said he told him, “I am an off-duty law enforcement officer. Get on the ground.”
Hoyt said White didn’t comply and told him, “no, I am not getting on the ground.”
Hoyt said he didn’t notice a knife, so he reholstered his weapon.
With his police training in mind, he said he decided to go hands-on to stop the threat.
During the scuffle, Hoyt recalled seeing a knife. He described White holding it like an ice pick and slashing toward his neck.
Hoyt said he threw up his arms and blocked White’s hands. He said the blade came inches from him.
Hoyt said he managed to push White off and then created space.
He said White continued coming to him with the knife.
Afraid for himself, his wife and his children, he fired a single shot.
He said he reassessed the situation and White continued to walk towards him. Hoyt fired 5 to 6 more shots.
Hoyt told the jury he was trying to protect his family.
During cross-examination, the Deputy Commonwealth Attorney, DJ Hansen, asked him why he didn’t walk backward. Hoyt said he was up against traffic on Bainbridge Boulevard.
Hansen also asked why White should have listened to his commands. He said he identified himself as off-duty but didn’t produce a badge.
After Hoyt’s testimony, the defense rested.
Hansen started closing arguments with, “three people know what happened.” He described Jessica Hoyt’s testimony as “not accurate.”
Hansen said White’s previous incidents had one thing in common. He always backed down. He said White wasn’t an aggressive person unless provoked.
Hansen told the jury Jessica threatened White first. He said Whit never produced a knife.
Hansen said White defended himself. He said the shooting wasn’t in self-defense. He said Hoyt pulled a gun first. Hansen also pointed out Hoyt never told White to drop the knife.
Lorello said Hoyt acted in self-defense.
During closing arguments, Lorello told the jury that physical evidence supports self-defense.
He said Jessica was reacting to White, not threatening him.
In the 911 call, Lorello pointed out that Jessica said she saw a knife. Lorello said Jessica decided to call the person she thought would protect her.
Lorello pointed out that Hoyt had stopped firing. He said Hoyt didn’t empty his magazine or continue to fire in rage.
Lorello said Hoyt didn’t bring the difficulty. He just reacted to his training.
Hansen said if Hoyt used his training, he should have called for back-up. He urged the jury to give justice to Kelvin White.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.