Police

Virginia Cop Charged in Shooting That Got Him Named Officer of the Month

It's not a cut-and-dried case. But the officer's life doesn't appear to be have been in any danger.

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When a Virginia cop shot a fleeing burglar in October 2017, he was named officer of the month and received a medal of valor. Now the same incident has him facing criminal charges.

Officer Jeremy Durocher of Portsmouth was charged Thursday with "aggravated malicious wounding" and "use of firearm in commission of felony," according to a grand jury indictment. Durocher allegedly intended to "maim, disfigure, disable, or kill" the defendant, 19-year-old Deontrace Ward. Durocher's actions caused Ward "to be severely injured and to suffer permanent and significant physical impairment," the indictment says.

Body camera footage of the October 29 incident shows Durocher running after Ward, a burglary suspect:

Durocher, who had been sworn in as an officer roughly six months prior, yells "Get on the ground" and then fires two shots before Ward jumps over a fence. "He has a gun! He has a gun!" Durocher shouts. He eventually has a clear line of sight and shoots again. This time, Ward drops to the ground. "Stay down," Durocher says. As other officers surround Ward, Durocher warns them that the suspect is armed.

"He's got a gun in his waistband," Durocher tells two officer who are down on the ground with Ward. "I got you, I already see it," one of the officers responds, before telling Ward: "You reach for that, I swear to God you will regret it."

Near the end of the video, Durocher says: "He came out the window, had a gun pointed at me."

Police did find a handgun inside the bottom of one of Ward's pant legs, The Virginian-Pilot reports. He originally faced charges of assaulting a cop and "brandishing a firearm," according to WAVY. But under the terms of a plea agreement, those charges were dropped. Ward pleaded guilty to several other charges, including armed burglary and grand larceny. He was given a 31-year prison sentence, though 25 of those years have been suspended.

Durocher, meanwhile, was honored at least twice for his actions. "His efforts have been recognized by his chain of command, as well as executive command staff," says a December message from Capt. Rich Springer congratulating Durocher on being named officer of the month.

Chief Tonya Chapman has also praised Durocher. "In recognition for your heroic response," she writes in his 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."

Durocher was put on administrative duty after the shooting, though it's unclear if the department plans to keep him on in the wake of his indictment. Duurocher turned himself in after being charged but was soon released on bond.

So how did Durocher go from being a hero to facing criminal charges? Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales tells WAVY the change came following "a Virginia State Police investigation and a supplemental investigation performed by our office's investigator."

Via his defense attorney, Durocher maintains that he did nothing wrong. The Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police agrees. But a lawyer for Ward, who's currently serving his sentence, says he plans to file a lawsuit.

To be clear, this is not a cut-and-dried case. Ward was an armed criminal. But he was also running away, and it doesn't appear as though Durocher's life was in any danger. It remains to be seen how that will play out in court.

But the entire ordeal shows the danger of encouraging officers to use potentially deadly force when their lives aren't in danger. As Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman has written, "American cops have a pattern of erring on the side of using deadly force, because they generally are trained to do so and rarely incur punishment for it." Some are even rewarded for it.

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  1. Via his defense attorney, Durocher maintains that he did nothing wrong. The Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police agrees.

    It’s kind of the other way around, what with how unions work and all.

  2. The fact that the perp HAD a gun on him is irrelevant. The cop had ZERO right to shoot the perp unless and until the perp had it in his hand and points it at the cop or someone else. Cops just LOVE to shoot people and the law be damned. Any reasonable person can understand a cop’s desire not to be shot, but the solution is NOT to shoot first and ask questions later. Cops should only shoot when there is an imminent danger to themselves or the public. This creep cop shot because he could and god damn the law. Lock him up!

    1. Near the end of the video, Durocher says: “He came out the window, had a gun pointed at me.”

      The cop said the perp had a gun pointed at him, and cops are paragons of virtue who would never lie about something like that to make themselves seem justified when they shoot someone.

      Police did find a handgun inside the bottom of one of Ward’s pant legs,

      Nevermind that the perp’s gun somehow ended up in his pant’s leg. Who are you gonna believe? Logic, or this HERO? /sarc, obviously.

      1. The video isn’t clear enough to definitively conclude, IMO. But the first time the perp appears, he’s on all fours getting his footing to flee. Maybe he had a gun in his hand and was waiving it, but to say he was pointing it at someone (the way one of the arresting officers points with her gun) is being generous.

        1. They say they found the gun on his ankle. The officer said it was in his hand, then said it was in his waistband. There’s no way he had it in his hand or in his waistband and then holstered it on his ankle as he was running. If there was a second gun he had in his hand, where is it?

          1. ….and where is the body cam video…

          2. “Holstered.” LOL. Though there was the (IIRC, a barber) in Chicago who got ventilated a few months back by four of five Chicago’s finest, while wearing a kydex holster/belt/mag holder set up that a 3-gun competitor would envy. So it happens rarely. But most criminals have no idea what a holster even is, never mind them using one.

            Occam would seem to suggest that the pistol fell down his pant leg from his waistband when he got shot.

            1. Unlike the garbage you see on TV, a gun, which is generally pretty heavy, doesn’t stay on the waistband, unless that waistband, or belt is very tight.

  3. You do realize police give each other awards so that they can pump each other up in statements to the press and in court when “normal procedures” go awry and there’s an ugly outcome.

  4. I’ll wait for the jury verdict (if any) to see what to think about this one…

  5. Everybody else cringed @0:48 when Ofc. Diversity Hire gestures with her gun and sweeps everyone, right?

    1. Holy shit would I love to hear the story behind whatever’s going on @5:20-5:40. Ofc. Funkhauser(?) dutifully relieves him of his weapon and Ofc. ComeLately shows up, Funkhauser gives a clear eye-roll, and ComeLately hands a gun to the officer who’s just been relieved of his weapon.

      Christ what a clusterfuck.

    2. I had to watch that part three times before I could believe she did that.

  6. And ANOTHER one.

    An armed burglar caught in the act.

    Are you fucking kidding?

    How many people whining about the eeeevvvuull cop here would have blasted this asshole’s head off if they’d caught him in their homes?

    Yeah.

    Armed home invasion doesn’t generate sympathy, folks.

    1. We have to protect EVERYONE. That’s how principles work.

      Remember who defended the British after the Boston Massacre? Future president John Adams. Out of principle.

      If ANYONE’S rights are violated, it is a problem. The man was running away. The police have zero cause for shooting someone who is fleeing. If they are allowed to continue, actual innocents will be hurt.

      1. Armed home invasion, Ben.

        You don’t let someone you just caught committing armed home invasion get away.

        When you say ‘stop’ and they don’t stop, you shoot.

        It used to be part of the phrase–‘stop or I’ll shoot’

        People like the ones whining now used to say ‘well, why didn’t you just shoot him to immobilize him?’

        And again, I will reiterate, the people here now whining would have shot the guy had they caught him in their home.

        And not to immobilize..

        1. And I’ll reiterate?shooting an invader in your home is not the same thing as shooting someone in the back as they run away.

          You don’t let someone you just caught committing armed home invasion get away.

          No. You try to apprehend them. You don’t just shoot them. Allowing that puts us all in danger.

          1. Some states allow officers to shoot a fleeing suspect, if they believe that allowing the culprit to escape would be a danger to the public.
            Usually the justification is that the perp just shot at the officer, thus exhibiting a disregard for the safety of anyone else. In this case the defense will rest on whether just pointing it at the cop will suffice.
            Don’t know how that works under Virginia law.

  7. An armed burglar caught in the act.

    The gun was on his ankle. There’s no way the officer knew he had it when he started shooting.

    How many people…would have blasted this asshole’s head off if they’d caught him in their homes?

    I’m sure almost everyone here would support a resident shooting someone in the act of invading their home. It’s very unlikely that would result in any charges against the resident. That’s not what happened. The officer shot the burglar as he was running away. A resident who shot a burglar outside his house as the burglar was fleeing would be prosecuted and sued. As I’ve said many time here, the rules for use of deadly force should be the same for the police as they are for everyone else.

    1. As I’ve said many time here, the rules for use of deadly force should be the same for the police as they are for everyone else.

      Yes.

      That’s why this is bad law–

      A resident who shot a burglar outside his house as the burglar was fleeing would be prosecuted and sued.

      Why should a burglar be home free once they turn and run? That’s what it takes to get your stuff?, just turn and tun and you’re not allowed to stop the criminal? Even if you can?

      And yes, if you rob someone, you deserve whatever punishment the victim chooses to hand out, even death. And I don’t give a fuck if your stupid ass is dying over a string of Mardi Gras beads. YOU broke in, YOU decided to rob people, YOU get what you get.

      1. Try to think through the consequences of what you’re suggesting. Can’t you see how giving everyone that power would lead to tragedies, both from misjudgments and from intentional abuse of that power?

        if you rob someone, you deserve whatever punishment the victim chooses to hand out, even death.

        No, Mad Max, we have a civilization here, and we don’t let alleged victims of crime act as judge, jury, and executioner. We have courts of law for that. We allow use of deadly force only in defense. Once someone is running away from you, you have no need to defend yourself. Unless, of course, you’re a cop, and we need to change that. That’s why this prosecution is welcome news.

        1. Vernon, allowing deadly force to protect property doesn’t seem to be a problem for Texas, though I agree it’s very much a minority view.

          To figure out whether Officer Durocher’s use of force was justified though, we don’t need to look at whether John Q. would be justified in shooting Mr. Ward, we just need to look at Tennessee v. Garner. Unlike in Garner, where the shot burglar was unarmed, and no immediate threat to either the citizenry or other law enforcement, Mr. Ward was armed, Officer Durocher claimed to have seen the weapon, and, most importantly, Ward was running near fellow officers who could be put at risk.

          That the firearm was found near Ward’s ankle, I’d explain (until someone shows evidence that, unlike most criminals, Ward even knew what a holster was) that the gun he shoved in his waistband fell, a la Plaxico Burress a few years ago, down his trouser leg.

          Cops can use deadly force to stop fleeing armed violent felons. Particularly if the officer believes the fleeing felon is headed right for fellow officers who might not be prepared to stop an immediately deadly threat.

          Indicting Officer Durocher is a district attorney grandstanding in a heavily Democrat Party dominated area, and thinking that getting the scalp of a white officer shooting a black kid will enhance their political chances.

          1. I’m saying the laws regarding this need to be changed. Telling me what the law is now is begging the question.

            1. Yes, you’re saying they need to be changed to protect armed intruders into homes.

              How noble.

        2. Alleged?

          What alleged?

          The man was caught red handed. There is no alleged here.

          There is no alleged in my example either. Someone is in your house, robbing you. They are armed. They see you and run, with whatever they’ve managed to get. They get outside.

          And, according to you, they’re free. They get to keep what they got and no one can stop them.

          Well, you can call the police, and they’ll add your case to the stack.

          If they manage to get him, much later, your stuff is gone, there will be no recompense, and depending on the justice system, your armed intruder might walk. Or cop a plea and walk. Or be declared innocent.

          But YOU know that he was in your home. You KNOW he robbed you. There is no alleged.

          It is ‘alleged’ when we don’t know. But in this case, as in my example, we do. What do we gain by pretending otherwise?

  8. – Near the end of the video, Durocher says: “He came out the window, had a gun pointed at me.”

    And you let him run off, rather than shooting him then. Right.

  9. The dirtbag had a gun and too bad he did not die.

  10. Yeah, I’ve got to disagree on this one. Burglary is a violent crime; it’s always been considered a predicate offense for the purpose of felony murder because it is a violent crime. So, you have a violent criminal who is armed & who is fleeing from the police? Sorry, that justifies deadly force. The alternative is that you or I or anybody just has to run the risk that we might run into a violent armed criminal fleeing the police – no way! This “victim” could have surrendered; he could have thrown away his weapon, but he made a conscious decision to put everyone at risk of deadly force, so I think he got what he deserved. Freedom only works if people suffer the foreseeable consequences of their actions — fleeing the cops while armed & after committing a violent felony should lead to risk of death or serious injury because we’re not trying to make crime safe for criminals. They don’t get to commit felonies like it’s a limited liability company, where they can risk only what they want to risk. If they want to be safe, they should surrender. Or, at the very least, throw away their weapons.

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