Prosecutors seeking indictment in Portsmouth officer-involved shooting case

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Almost a year to the day since an officer-involved shooting in Portsmouth, prosecutors have implied they’ll pursue an indictment against the officer who fired shots at a fleeing armed burglary suspect.

In a release sent out Wednesday, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Brandon T. Wrobleski said an indictment will be sought at Thursday’s grand jury. 

10 On Your Side has reached out to Wrobleski for more information, but he wouldn’t elaborate on the statement and said more details would be released soon. 

PREVIOUS: Bodycam video shows burglary suspect shot by Portsmouth officer

The officer-involved shooting happened on Oct. 29, 2017, when Portsmouth officers were responding to a burglary at a home on Tatem Avenue. Two suspects were spotted leaving the home and police say one, Deontrace Ward, was armed. 

Body camera footage shows police giving chase and Portsmouth Police Officer Jeremy Durocher shooting Ward in the arm as Ward ran away. Durocher can be heard yelling “He has a gun! He has a gun!” before firing multiple shots. 

Police then searched Ward and found a gun inside his pants near his knee, as well as jewelry, according to André Wiggins, a special prosecutor from Suffolk. 

Ward eventually pleaded guilty to five felonies in the case back in August and was sentenced to 31 years in prison with 25 suspended.

The Virginia State Police investigation into the officer-involved shooting was received and reviewed by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office along with a supplemental investigation from one of their investigators. A separate release confirmed those activities concluded two weeks ago.

“[Jeremy Durocher] has been waiting like the rest of us for the outcome of this investigation,” said Nicholas Renninger, Dourcher’s attorney. “His life in a sense has been put on hold.” 

On Wednesday afternoon, Renninger said that he was unaware of who exactly the CA looked to indict. He has previously stated that Durocher believed that other citizens and officers were at risk when he made the call to fire his gun.

“He’s just as confident today as he was a year ago that he made the right call,” Rinninger said.

Reached by phone, a woman who would only identify herself as Ward’s grandmother said she didn’t really want to get involved.

“What he did that day was was wrong, but I don’t think he deserved to be shot,” the woman said. 

The Portsmouth NAACP released the following statement following the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s release.

“We are pleased that the Wheels of Justice are turning for Deontrace Ward, his family, and our community,” said James P. Boyd, President of Portsmouth NAACP in a statement Wednesday. “We hope that the process moves quickly as his family and our community have waited long enough. The police body cam footage clearly shows that there was no merit to the officer shooting Deontrace in his back or utilizing that degree of force in the first place. No threat was imminent to the officer or others and this type of reckless judgment must be held accountable. We place trust in our law enforcement officials to handle the use of force with sound reason and judgment and it’s clear that this was not the case with their encounter with Deontrace and those responsible should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the Law.” 

The Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police also commented. 

“It’s our opinion the Commonwealth’s Attorney is taking this to Grand Jury because she doesn’t want to make a decision,” said Matt Crutcher, President of the Portsmouth FOP. “This poor officer has had to sit and worry for a year.” 

The grand jury is expected to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday and the indictment will not be sealed, officials tell 10 On Your Side. 

——

NOTE: In an earlier article it stated the Virginia State Police investigation into the incident was just completed two weeks ago. In fact, it was the Commonwealth Attorney’s review of the investigation that was completed. We regret the error. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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