Months after his arrest in January, the man accused of shooting and killing an elderly Pokémon Go player has been indicted by a grand jury on a first-degree murder charge on Wednesday.
Johnathan Cromwell, a former security guard, was initially charged with second-degree murder in the death of 60-year-old Jiansheng Chen back in February.
Now, the 22-year-old is facing two charges, including the “use of a firearm in the commission of a felony” in addition to his main murder charge.
Police reports revealed that when the incident took place outside of a clubhouse in the River Walk neighborhood of Chesapeake, Virginia, the security guard was on duty.
According to prosecutors, Cromwell reportedly stopped his vehicle directly in front of Chen’s minivan. When Chen backed his van up to leave, Cromwell allegedly exited his car and said “stop” before he opened fire five times.
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Chen was hit four times in the upper left chest and once in the upper left arm.
Cromwell previously admitted to the authorities of shooting Chen first through the driver’s side window and then continued firing in the front of the van.
The victim’s family says their grandfather spoke little English except for words such as “sorry” and “bye”.
Greg Sandler, who is representing Chen’s family, had earlier expressed that the altercation may have been ignited due in part to a language barrier. Defense attorneys for Cromwell have maintained, however, that he acted in self-defense. Chen was allegedly trespassing in the area and had tried to run Cromwell over with his minivan before shots were fired. Ed Cromwell, the father of the accused, told News 3 that the updated charge was “pretty absurd” and that there was “no ground for it” since his son “didn’t plan it.”
“This case is really more political than it is as far as on a judicial standpoint. We believe they’re just trying to make an example of him,” he was quoted as saying.
He added that the change only happened after some lawmakers demanded a thorough investigation of the case.
“For them to step up and inquire why hadn’t charges been forth after three and a half weeks after the city tried to determine if it would be justified shoot or not. They went back and forth with it several times,” said Cromwell.
Meanwhile, Jiansheng’s nephew Wenren Chen said in a statement:
“We knew what happened with the scene and we know my uncle didn’t do anything. And we’re waiting on answers from the police force. All up to this time, we’ve been waiting on answers from the police force. That further explains why my Father is pleased with the answers because we’ve been waiting for that.”
A jury trial is set to begin on September 26.