It’s a dark time for Johnathan Cromwell, age 21. Charged with the murder of a man playing Pokemon Go, Cromwell appeared in court yesterday morning. A Chesapeake judge denied bond for the security guard, and instead charged him with second degree murder and use of a firearm.
According to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Jiansheng Chen, the 60-year-old Pokemon Go player turned into the driveway of a clubhouse parking lot in a blue van. Cromwell proceeded to confront Chen by stopping his vehicle in front of Chen’s.
What happened next is up for debate. Chen backed up and turned his vehicle around. He made it to the entrance of the driveway facing the street, River Walk Parkway. As the story goes, Cromwell may have exited his car and said “stop” before firing. Whatever the case, he did shoot a man who had pulled into a parking lot and momentarily stopped to play Pokemon Go.
And it wasn’t just a shot. It was a grand total of 8 shots, 5 of them hitting Chen. Cromwell first shot Chen’s driver side window, and then moved to the front of the van, firing seven times.
Between Fear & Petitions
It has been confirmed that Chen was, in fact, in his van, unarmed. He was not aggressive with Cromwell in any way, he was just momentarily parked to play Pokemon Go. Because of this Harry Zhang, organizer of Chinese Americans, Easter Virginia chapter, appeared in court with family and friends of Chen’s.
Chen’s brother testified during the hearing, saying:
“We worry about the potential revenge, it’s definitely it’s a scare, it’s a threat to the community, public safety.”
But they’re not the only ones outraged and worried about Chen’s death. Protests, a Facebook page and petition, is now demanding justice. Referring to him as Grandpa Chen, the internet has gone full-outrage. Just yesterday, over 4,500 signatures were presented to the Chesapeake Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
Harry Zhang, a local professor and president of the Eastern Virginia chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, described the petition’s goal:
“Our petition is very simple. We just want to bring the justice to Mr. Chen, and we want the Commonwealth Attorney to [bring down] the highest criminal charge possible, permitted by the law.”
The petition gathered more signatures after being presented in court.
Is It About Race?
But perhaps everyone is focusing on the wrong aspect of this case. At least, that is what Andrew Sacks, the security guard company’s attorney, said in a statement to News 3:
“I understand and appreciate the fact that people would be sympathetic to a member of their community. It is not the ethnicity of the person at issue, but the conduct of the person at issue. Everything points to this being an unfortunate but necessary use of force to prevent the security guard from being run over and killed, or seriously injured.”
Appeals and Hearings
Meanwhile, Cromwell’s attorney, Emily Munn, claims he acted in self-defense, because Chen was trying to run him over. She says the company that Cromwell worked for and a criminal justice investigation agency both cleared Cromwell.
In fact, she has stated that Chen was given ban notices to stay away from the clubhouse after dark.
The outcome of this case is yet to be determined, as Cromwell’s attorneys appealed. The hearing is this Friday at 10 AM.