A Virginia police officer who was already charged with felonies for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back faces more legal troubles for the incident.
Deontrace Ward, 19, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Portsmouth Officer Jeremy Durocher, alleging that the cop shot and injured him even though his own weapon was secured in his pant leg while he ran away from the cop, the Virginia Pilot reported.
Ward admitted to committing a house burglary in October 2017 when he encountered law enforcement officers, but he accused Durocher of gross negligence and battery for shooting him when he posed no threat to the officer. His lawsuit seeks $2.35 million.
The teenager was sentenced to six years in prison for stealing jewelry and illegally possessing a firearm.
Durocher’s department-issued body camera captured him yelling, “He has a gun,” when he first sees Ward running from the house. The officer shot Ward in the back and arm.
The cop later tells other officers at the scene that Ward “waved” a gun at him. However, an investigation found that Ward did not pull out his weapon.
When police department investigators looked at the video, they decided that Durocher feared for his life and was justified in shooting, according to the newspaper. In fact, they named Durocher officer of the month and gave him a medal of valor.
However, prosecutors had a very different view of how the encounter unfolded. In November, they won a grand jury indictment against Durocher on two felony counts: aggravated malicious wounding and the illegal use of a firearm charge. According to the charges, he shot Ward with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill the teenager.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
It’s rare for an officer to get punished for shooting a suspect. There are roughly 1,000 police shootings every year in the United States, but officers seldom face justice. According to CNN, only 80 cops were arrested on murder or manslaughter charges for on-duty shootings between 2005 and April 2017. However, only 35 percent of those arrests led to convictions in that 12-year period.
“The central issue in this case is whether my client had a gun in his hand as he ran away,” Ward’s attorney said. “We believe the video is clear that he did not.”