- A 60-year-old grandfather who learned to play Pokémon Go as a way to bond with his young relatives was fatally shot by a security guard two years ago.
- On Monday, a jury recommended the security guard, Johnathan Cromwell, serve 30 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge.
- Cromwell’s attorney said at trial that Cromwell believed the grandfather, Jiansheng Chen, was about to mow him down with his minivan and that he fired the shots in self-defense.
- Prosecutors disagreed, saying Chen’s murder was a “malicious killing” at the hands of a guard who wanted to abuse his power.
Jiansheng Chen, 60, first learned how to play Pokémon Go from his nephew, using the augmented-reality game as a way to bond with his young relatives.
A Chinese immigrant whose family owned the Royal China restaurant in Chesapeake, Virginia, Chen got into the habit of leaving his shifts late at night and heading to a local community clubhouse, which doubled as a virtual “gym” where players could battle each other in games such as Pokémon Go.
On January 26, 2017, Chen’s did just that, leaving the restaurant around 10:30 p.m., his brother Jian Chen told WTKR.
The Pokémon Go app recorded his last activity in the game at 11:06 p.m., a forensic expert would later testify at trial, WTKR reported.
Minutes later, Chen was dead, struck by five of the 10 bullets that a security guard fired through the driver’s-side window and windshield of Chen’s van.
The guard, 23-year-old Johnathan Cromwell, was convicted of second-degree murder on March 1. On Monday, a jury recommended he serve 30 years in prison for killing Chen.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Cromwell had pulled up to Chen’s minivan around 11 p.m. that night, parked his vehicle “nose to nose” with Chen’s van, and accused him of trespassing, according to The Virginian Pilot.
They said Cromwell knew of Chen and had “stalked” him in the past as he played the game near the clubhouse, issuing him a citation 10 days earlier and warning him against trespassing.
But when Chen put his car in reverse to leave the scene, Cromwell opened fire, prosecutors said.
Cromwell’s attorney, Andrew Sacks, characterized Chen in court as an “aggressive, belligerent” driver who was trying to use his van as a weapon by driving it at Cromwell, the local NBC News affiliate WAVY-TV reported. Sacks said Cromwell “believed he was about to be killed” by Chen’s van, and that he fired the shots to defend himself.
But prosecutors pushed back against that characterization, saying Chen’s murder was a “malicious killing” at the hands of a guard who wanted to abuse his power, according to WAVY-TV.
Prosecutors also told jurors that investigators found broken glass on the ground under the driver’s-side and back windows of Chen’s vehicle. The prosecutor D.J. Hansen told the jury that the evidence contradicted Cromwell’s defense that Chen’s van was moving when Cromwell began shooting, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
Cromwell is due back in court on June 24, according to court documents viewed by INSIDER.