Portsmouth rookie cop who shot fleeing Black teenager in the back now faces felony charges
In April, we reported that a burglary suspect was shot by a rookie cop as he fled from the scene after stealing jewelry from a Virginia home.
Shortly after, the Portsmouth cop Jeremy Durocher was awarded a medal of valor for his arrest of 18-year-old Deontrace Ward, but now, after an investigation, he faces two felony charges that could sentence him to life in prison.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that on Thursday, a grand jury charged Durocher with two felony counts, aggravated malicious wounding, and a firearms charge. The indictment alleges he shot Ward with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill.
Durocher shot Ward as he exited a home he was burglarizing. The body cam video obtained by the Virginian-Pilot shows that Ward had a gun in his pants leg, but didn’t brandish the weapon when he was shot and injured. Ward allegedly stole jewelry from a Portsmouth home and was making his get-away when the confrontation with police occurred.
The video proved problematic for Officer Durocher because it showed that Ward wasn’t an immediate threat and shed new light on the controversial case. Durocher was placed on administrative duty. He says that Ward was “carrying a weapon that was definitely visible.”
At the time the Portsmouth Police Department reviewed the video and honored Durocher as an officer of the month and gave him a medal of valor.
“In recognition for your heroic response,” Police Chief Tonya Chapman wrote in the medal of valor commendation. “You took necessary steps to stop the threat that this suspect posed to the public and to your fellow officers at great personal risk.”
Ward’s attorney said he was unaware that Durocher was given a medal for the shooting that ended with a bullet lodged in Ward’s abdomen.
“If I were a citizen of the city of Portsmouth, this information would make me fearful for my life,” S.W. Dawson said.
“This speaks to a culture that is dangerous in that police department,” said James Boyd, president of the Portsmouth NAACP. He said the police chief should choose to recognize her officers when they do good community engagement work, not shoot people.
The president of the Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police and Durocher’s attorney, however, believe the prosecutors are wrong and the awards show that.
“The ones that know what is happening on the front lines recognized him for valor,” defense attorney Nicholas Renninger.
“He absolutely deserved that award,” said Sgt. Matt Crutcher of the FOP. “He did exactly what we trained him to do.”