PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — State police say an 18-year-old shoplifting suspect was fatally shot during a struggle with a Portsmouth police officer Wednesday morning.
The incident started around 7:35 a.m. at the Frederick Boulevard Wal-Mart when security alerted Portsmouth police of an alleged shoplifter leaving the store. The suspect was walking across the store parking lot when he was approached by a Portsmouth officer, according to Sgt. Michelle Anaya with Virginia State Police (VSP).
Multiple witnesses told police the man and the officer started to struggle. At some point during the altercation, Anaya said the officer shot the suspect. She said the officer immediately called for medical rescue, but the man died at the scene.
8News sister station WAVY-TV 10 spoke with witness Paul Akey, who works at a construction site just beside the Wal-Mart. He said he witnessed the struggle between the police officer and the suspect and the fatal gunshot.
“It looked like, at one time, he had a handcuff on him, like his left hand was behind him,” Akey said. “Then, all of a sudden, the guy went nuts and started whaling on the cop, and that’s when he looked like he knocked something out of the cop’s hand. I don’t know if it was a Taser or what.”
Akey, who lives in Delaware, said he watched the altercation from the cab of his crane, about 50 yards from where the officer and suspect were struggling.
“Because the guy started hitting the police officer, the police office backed up like 10 feet. The guy came at him, and we heard two shots, and the guy went down,” Akey said.
The suspect’s remains are at the office of the medical examiner in Norfolk for examination and autopsy. Anaya said his identity has not yet been released because police are still trying to notify his family.
Though witnesses report seeing the suspect being stunned by a Taser, Anaya said state police cannot confirm if a Taser was used during the incident. She also said, if there is any police video of the shooting, it will be part of the investigation and won’t be released until the investigation is complete. She also could not confirm if the police officer performed CPR on the suspect after the shooting, as some witnesses accounts have said.
“I believe the cop was in the right,” Akey said. “I mean, he Tased him, and he tried fighting him off. The guy was bigger than the cop. So, it looked like he was in the right. He did his thing. We all thought he did a pretty good job.”
Virginia State Police took over the investigation of the shooting, at the request of Portsmouth Police Chief Ed Hargis. When the investigation is complete, the findings will be handed over to Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales to determine if the officer involved will be criminally charged or not.
Portsmouth police will still conduct an internal investigation to determine if the officer followed department policy. In the meantime, the officer has been put on administrative leave.
The Wal-Mart was closed for several hours while police investigated the scene. The store reopened around 2 p.m.
This is the second deadly officer-involved shooting in Portsmouth in less than a month. On March 24, police say they tried to pull Walter Brown III over on drug charges, but he drove off. Portsmouth’s police chief said Brown led them on a five-mile chase, then pulled out a weapon during a struggle with officers inside a home on Colin Drive. Virginia State Police also took over the investigation of that case.
Portsmouth NAACP President James Boyd told WAVY.com the organization is looking into this shooting. Boyd added, the community is outraged there have been two Portsmouth officer-involved shootings in one month.
“We intend to make sure that the community, that the families that have been affected by these shootings, know what happened and what’s going on,” Boyd said.
Boyd said he has spoken with family members of the 18-year-old. Although, he wanted to wait until police confirm his identity before releasing his name.
Stay with us for updates on this developing story.