NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk’s police chief said a spilled drink launched the argument that ended in five people being shot, two fatally, in the heart of Norfolk’s downtown business district early Saturday morning.
Chief Larry Boone, in addressing the Downtown Norfolk Civic League Monday night, said “this is another incident in which conflict resolution did not exist.”
According to police, the call for the shooting came in around 1:55 a.m. Saturday in the 300 block of Granby Street, in the vicinity of Chicho’s Backstage and Tidewater Community College. In total five people were shot. Sierra Jenkins and Devon “Malik” Harris, both 25, died of their injuries.
Boone said the argument did begin inside Chicho’s Backstage. At this point, no suspect has been identified.
“We don’t have any hard and fast leads right now on that individual,” Boone said. “I am cautiously optimistic based on where this occurred that we will make an arrest.”
He said witnesses are still being interviewed and reward money is being considered.
These were the first statements Boone made since the shooting. Thus far, he has declined 10 On Your Side’s requests for an interview. Norfolk police have not immediately responded to questions about what happened on the public street.
In order to try and provide better peace-of-mind downtown, Boone said an increased police presence will begin on Granby Street Thursday.
While Boone said the department is facing an “astronomical” shortage of more than 200 officers — a number with at least 60 additional vacancies than reported last year — Boone said the extra personnel will come from specialty units to complement officers who patrol the downtown area.
Boone said officers will work to close Granby Street to vehicle traffic around the time bars and clubs close, in order to “funnel” people to their cars. Boone said the strategy worked well last summer after several shootings in the Neon District.
“We saw a drastic, drastic reduction in our shootings,” Boone said.
Finally, he plans to ask City Council if they would approve of the use of surveillance cameras and drones at special events.
“Those types of things that tell folks they are being watched, changes behavior,” Boone said.
The topic of making downtown safer has been growing over the last several years as more shootings have occurred in the area. Late last year, City Council went as far to shut clubs down after multiple shootings happened outside.
Council members Courtney Doyle and Andria McClellan represent downtown Norfolk. Both told civic league members they support changes to city policy to help address downtown safety as well.
“I just feel we need to take downtown back,” Doyle said.
Doyle said she plans to introduce several of her proposals Tuesday at City Council’s work session. They include a review of all downtown bar and restaurant conditional use permits (CUP), putting a hold on issuing new CUPs downtown and requiring all businesses to close at midnight.
“Everybody close at midnight. Nothing good happens after midnight. We all know that,” Doyle said.
She closed by saying she’d ultimately like to see a “gun-free Granby.”
McClellan supported her in that call.
“It’s always something you balance when you have folks out late at night, and you’ve got alcohol involved. Unfortunate things happen, but things like this do not need to happen,” McClellan said. “I don’t know why, but this pandemic has caused people to act out in ways we’ve never seen.”
In Norfolk alone, the police have reported 26 shooting incidents since Jan. 1 — not including this weekend’s violence.
But the violence was not just limited to Norfolk. Sixteen people were shot in six of the seven cities over the weekend, and four of them died.
In 2021, 530 gunshot wound patients were treated at Norfolk General Hospital — which is the region’s trama center. In 2019, 300 gunshot wound patients were treated there. Norfolk General saw a 76% increase in gunshot victims over the last three years.
“There used to be a time folks when we knew when shootings were going to occur,” Boone said. “In the last two years, it’s hard to identify where they are going to occur so we can take some proactive measures. It’s a different world that we live in right now.”
On Saturday, Norfolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi sent his condolences in a social media post:
“Locally, we will do our utmost to seek justice and accountability with the laws we have, but the solutions to gun violence start with good personal choices and sensible reforms to our national and state laws to keep guns out of the hands of bad actors. We must come together.”
He urged anyone with surveillance footage, cell phone video or information to contact Norfolk police.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin also shared his condolences:
Our hearts are breaking for the lives lost in Norfolk, including Sierra Jenkins. The First Lady and I are praying for their families, friends, and the Virginian-Pilot community.
On Tuesday, the Portsmouth Police Department also gave a letter to the Virginian-Pilot offering condolences on the loss of Jenkins. It was signed by the police chief, two assistant police chiefs, and the public information officer.
“She was a dedicated community partner, and we here at the Portsmouth Police Department offer our sincerest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues,” the letter reads. “Her death is a profound loss, and she will remain in our hearts and prayers.”
Those with information can submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-888-LOCK-U-UP, downloading the P3 tips app to a mobile device, or visiting www.P3tips.com and submitting a tip.