Virginia Beach

VB Chief: Terrorism charges against prom suspects were called for at the time

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera is opening up about terrorism charges withdrawn against two teenagers.

In June, 18-year-old Michael Coleman and a 17-year-old were arrested as police say they were planning a violent act at Bayside High School's prom at the Westin in Town Center.

Two weeks ago, the terrorism charge against the 17-year-old was nolle prossed and the same thing happened to Coleman last Friday.

Virginia Beach prosecutors say it is very rare for a felony charge to be withdrawn before the preliminary hearing.

"The officers are still working on it," Cervera said. "They are doing a lot more intel work and if we can put enough information together and the commonwealth's attorney feels more comfortable, they can reinstate the charges."

The 17-year-old was arrested at Town Center, where the prom was being held. Coleman was later apprehended in Norfolk.  Police say Coleman had a gun on him outside the prom and inside the teenagers' hotel room at the Westin there was a semi-automatic rifle.

"They were heavily armed," Cervera added.  "We know where this was going to go.  Our officers had a lot of intel information that I can't talk about right now."

Police called an emergency news conference to announce the charges.  Charges that didn't hold up just after the court process got off the ground.

"I do stand behind the charges," Cervera said.  "Those officers did a fantastic job.  I stand by those charges."

The chief says in most cases involving a felony, prosecutors are consulted before charges are taken out.  It didn't happen in this case.  When the case was brought the commonwealth's attorney it was decided there wasn't sufficient evidence.

"That's the decision of the commonwealth's attorney," Cervera added.

Police still continue to work on the case. The chief says his men and women saved many lives that night.

"Those cops put themselves in a position to circumvent a violent crime from happening," Cervera said.

Coleman and the 17-year-old are still facing concealed weapons charges.


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