Murder of Jiansheng Chen

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Murder of Jiansheng Chen
Jiansheng Chen memorial.jpg
Memorial for Jiansheng Chen near the River Walk clubhouse
DateJanuary 26, 2017 (2017-01-26)
LocationChesapeake, Virginia, U.S.
DeathsJiansheng Chen
AccusedJohnathan Cromwell
ChargesSecond-degree murder
VerdictGuilty of second-degree murder and using a firearm to commit murder
Sentence30 years in prison
River Walk clubhouse in Chesapeake, VA. Chen was shot at the clubhouse's parking lot driveway entrance.

Jiansheng Chen, a 60-year-old grandfather,[1] was shot dead by a security guard in Chesapeake, Virginia, in the night of January 26, 2017. Chen was playing the augmented reality mobile game, Pokémon Go, in a minivan at the community clubhouse's parking lot when the security guard, Johnathan Cromwell, shot 10 rounds, which 5 bullets hit the grandfather.[2] He was a Chinese immigrant and spoke little English.[1]

On February 16, 2017, Cromwell was charged with second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison on June 24, 2019.[3]


According to a notice given to the residents by River Walk community, the contract for the patrol services is for unarmed patrols.[4]

After the shooting, River Walk Community Association suspended and then terminated their contract with the security company, Citywide Protection Services.[5]

On February 6, 2017, Andrew M. Sacks, an attorney representing Citywide Protection Services, which employed the security guard who shot Chen, held a news conference. According to Sacks, Chen repeatedly attempted to hit the security guard with his blue minivan; in response, the security guard fired "in reasonable fear for his life and safety". The evidences also confirmed that the victim had been in the same place 10 days earlier, and, as specified by Sacks, was warned about the trespassing the private property and instructed not to return. More than 60 people protested in support of Chen outside Sacks' office in downtown Norfolk during the news conference.[6]

It was reported that Chen played Pokémon Go "as a way to bond with his nieces, nephews and grandchildren."[3] According to Greg Sandler, an attorney representing Chen's family, Chen was playing Pokémon Go at the time when he was shot.[7] Police said the security guard fired through more than one of the van's windows.[4] The security guard fired several shots through the side window and "then moved to the front of the van and fired through the windshield".[1][8][9][10][11]

On February 14, 2017, 3 U.S. Representatives Donald McEachin (VA-04), Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Grace Meng (NY-06) issued a joint statement concerning the death of Jiansheng Chen. They said they "must know how a game of Pokémon Go turned into a fatal shooting."[12]

Legal proceedings[edit]

On February 16, 2017, based on a news release from the Commonwealth's Attorney Nancy Parr, Johnathan Cromwell, the 21-year-old security guard of Virginia Beach was charged with second-degree murder and use of a firearm. The news release also said Chen's van turned into the parking area of the River Walk clubhouse on January 26, 2017 around 11:00 p.m. Then "Mr. Cromwell confronted Mr. Chen by stopping his vehicle directly in front of Mr. Chen's. Mr. Chen backed up and turned his vehicle around to the point that it was at the entrance of the driveway facing River Walk Parkway when he was shot. Mr. Cromwell had exited his car and did say "stop" before he fired his weapon. Mr. Chen has gunshot entry wounds to his upper body area. The gunshot entry wounds are one (1) in his left upper arm and four (4) in his upper left chest."[13]

Cromwell turned himself in the afternoon of February 16, 2017.[14] At a bond hearing on February 27, Cromwell was denied bond by Judge Stephen Telfeyan.[15]

According to the lawsuit, the security guard has a history of aggression who had "previously drawn and brandished his weapon toward unarmed residents and guests of the River Walk neighborhood." He would go beyond the boundaries of his duties and use excessive force, which resulted in a previous employer firing Cromwell.[16]

The second-degree murder charge was upgraded to first-degree murder in July 2017.[17] Following the attorney switch, a judge granted Cromwell a six-month continuance from his original trial date of September 26, 2017, WAVY-TV reported. Sacks said the trial was expected to begin on March 8, 2018 and to last five days.[18]

On June 29, 2018, court records show the jury trial was scheduled for February 19, 2019.[19] A homicide detective who investigated the shooting testified in court on February 21, 2019 that "Cromwell wanted to play a video of himself qualifying for a shooting certification, but the detective said he did not want to see it." Then, Cromwell continued to ask, "How was my grouping?" referring to the accuracy of shots he had fired at Chen.[2] Cromwell reportedly appeared in court wearing headphones every day since he was having trouble hearing the proceedings, which implied excessive shooting that can cause ear damage.[2]

On March 1, 2019, a jury found Johnathan Cromwell, 23, guilty of second-degree murder and using a firearm to commit murder.[20][21] On June 24, 2019, a Judge sentenced Cromwell to 30 years in prison. Sacks said that they intend to appeal the conviction.

Chen's family has also filed a $5.35 million wrongful death lawsuit against Cromwell, his employer, Citywide Protection Services, and the River Walk Community Association in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Fuchs, Chris (February 1, 2017). "60-Year-Old Grandfather Killed by Security Guard While Playing Pokemon Go: Lawyer". NBC News. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Cardin, Rachael (February 21, 2019). "Body cam, surveillance video submitted as evidence in Chesapeake murder trial". Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Fuchs, Chris (June 24, 2019). "Former guard sentenced to 30 years in death of Pokemon Go-playing grandfather". NBC News. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Hafner, Katherine; Daugherty, Scott (February 2, 2017). "Security guard who killed 60-year-old Chesapeake man acted in self defense, attorney says". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  5. ^ Badcock, Merris (February 22, 2017). "Chesapeake HOA fires security company after guard charged in death of Pokemon Go player". Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  6. ^ Hafner, Katherine; Matray, Margaret (February 6, 2017). "Chesapeake man killed by security guard tried to run him down in minivan, attorney says". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  7. ^ Hafner, Katherine (January 30, 2017). "Chesapeake man killed by security guard was playing "Pokémon Go," says family's lawyer". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  8. ^ Fuchs, Chris (February 15, 2017). "Politicians, Advocates Call for Answers in Fatal Shooting of Grandfather". NBC News. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  9. ^ Mark, Michelle (March 6, 2019). "A security guard who fatally shot a grandfather playing Pokémon Go could face 30 years in prison". Insider. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  10. ^ Fuchs, Chris (March 5, 2019). "Jury recommends 30 years for security guard convicted in death of Pokemon Go-playing grandfather". NBC News. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  11. ^ Matray, Margaret (March 3, 2017). "Security guard in "Pokémon Go" killing asked about his "grouping" of shots, prosecutor says". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  12. ^ Moyer, Justin Wm. (February 15, 2017). "'Many questions remain': Lawmakers want probe after man reportedly shot while playing Pokémon Go". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  13. ^ Parr, Nancy G. "Security guard charged in fatal shooting" (Press release). Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney, City of Chesapeake. Retrieved November 10, 2020 – via Scribd.
  14. ^ Fuchs, Chris (February 17, 2017). "Security Guard Charged in Fatal Shooting of Grandfather". NBC News. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  15. ^ Matray, Margaret (February 27, 2017). "Bond denied for security guard charged in Chesapeake "Pokémon Go" fatal shooting". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved March 2, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ Matray, Margaret (January 29, 2019). "Security guard charged in "Pokemon Go" shooting had history of brandishing gun, lawsuit says". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved March 2, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ Satchell, Emily (July 5, 2017). "Security guard now facing first-degree murder charge in deadly shooting". Archived from the original on July 5, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  18. ^ Fuchs, Chris (August 2, 2017). "Man charged in death of Pokemon Go-playing grandfather hires new lawyer". NBC News. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  19. ^ "Virginia Court Case Information". Retrieved June 30, 2018.
  20. ^ "Virginia security guard convicted of murdering Pokémon Go player". March 1, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  21. ^ Matray, Margaret (March 1, 2019). "Security guard guilty of second-degree murder in Chesapeake Pokemon Go shooting". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved November 10, 2020.