A former Virginia security guard has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the 2017 shooting death of a grandfather who was playing Pokémon Go.
A judge handed Johnathan Cromwell, 23, his sentence on Monday following his conviction of second-degree murder in 60-year-old Jiansheng Chen’s death. His sentence matches one suggested by a jury back in March.
Chen was playing the popular smartphone game on Jan. 26, 2017, when authorities said he drove his minivan into the Chesapeake Riverwalk Clubhouse’s driveway after hours and was confronted by Cromwell, who was at the time working as a security guard.
An attorney for Chen’s family had said that Chen, a Chinese immigrant who lived in the neighborhood, had started playing the game as a means to connect with his grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Cromwell argued that he shot Chen in self-defense, stating that he believed Chen was going to hit him with his vehicle while allegedly trespassing on the property.
“Mr. Cromwell confronted Mr. Chen by stopping his vehicle directly in front of Mr. Chen’s,” Nancy Parr, the Commonwealth’s attorney, said in an earlier statement. “Mr. Chen backed up and turned his vehicle around … Mr. Cromwell had exited his car and did say ‘stop’ before he fired his weapon.”
Chen was shot five times. The bullets first shattered through the driver’s side window and then the vehicle’s front windshield, which prosecutors said contradict Cromwell’s claim that he fired at the vehicle as it reversed towards him, the Virginia Pilot reported.
Cromwell’s defense attorney, speaking with reporters after Monday’s sentencing, called him innocent and said they will file an appeal.
“It’s not fair because he shouldn’t have been convicted of anything,” Andrew Sacks told local station WAVY News.
“This was a para-police officer, a security guard licensed by the state permitted to carry a gun,” Sacks added. “He had a statutory duty to protect people, make arrests and it was in the line of that duty.”