Charged Cop Asks For Judge To Rule On Shooting, But Prosecutor Demands A Jury

Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Morales announced that Officer Jeremy Durocher will face a jury trial.

Portsmouth, VA – A Portsmouth police officer charged for shooting an armed burglary suspect during a foot pursuit in 2017 will have his fate decided by a jury, even though he opted to have a judge decide the outcome of the case.

Nicole Belote, the attorney representing 32-year-old Portsmouth Police Department Officer Jeremy Durocher, said she and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney George Bruch had already established an agreed-upon plan to waive the jury trial during a brief text message exchange on Dec. 6, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

“If we waive jury, do you intend to concur?” Belote asked him in the text.

“Yes,” Bruch responded.

But on Wednesday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales overrode Bruch’s agreement with Belote, and announced that her office would ask the court for a jury trial.

Law enforcement officers who are charged with criminal offenses often opt for bench trials on the belief the judges are more impartial and juries may consider emotions over facts.

But Virginia law allows prosecutors to request a jury trial, even if the defendant has waived that right.

“It’s unfortunate that we are going this route,” Belote said of Morales’ announcement.

Officer Durocher’s trial was scheduled to begin on June 13, 2019, but will likely need to be reset to accommodate for jury selection, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

He has been charged with illegal use of a firearm and aggravated malicious wounding, and faces a maximum of life in prison if he is convicted.

The charges came in November, just months after he was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor and named Officer of the Month for his actions during the incident, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

“The ones that know what is happening on the front lines recognized him for valor,” Officer Durocher’s attorney at the time, Nicholas Renninger, told the paper.

"He's just as confident today as he was a year ago that he made the right call," Renninger added, according to WAVY.

“He absolutely deserved that award,” Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) spokesperson Sergeant Matt Crutcher agreed. “He did exactly what we trained him to do.”

“We stand committed, as we are sworn to do, to protect the citizens of Portsmouth, but we need to acknowledge that our lives matter just as much as everyone else’s,” the FOP said in a statement, according to WTKR.

The incident occurred on Oct. 29, 2017, after Portsmouth police responded to a residential burglary on Tatem Avenue, WAVY reported.

Bodycam footage showed the officers as they stood outside a home with their weapons drawn, just a moment before a woman yelled out.

Officer Durocher immediately began running towards the woman’s voice, and spotted 18-year-old Deontrace Ward sprinting away from the house.

“Hey! Get on the ground!” the officer ordered, as Ward fled through the yard and behind a fence.

“He has a gun! He has a gun!” Officer Durocher yelled, firing multiple rounds.

Ward fell to the ground outside another home, and Officer Durocher scaled a fence while ordering the armed suspect to remain on the ground.

Additional officers arrived at the scene from the direction in which Ward had been running.

“He’s got a gun!” Officer Durocher repeatedly warned them. “He’s got a gun in his waistband.”

“He had it flying like…towards me,” the winded officer explained in the video. “He didn’t shoot, but he had it at me as he came out the window.”

Police located the loaded weapon inside Ward’s pants near his knee, as well as stolen jewelry, WAVY reported.

Another gun was recovered inside the burgled home, according to WAVY.

Two entryways were damaged at the residence, and investigators ultimately recovered approximately $1,500 worth of stolen items.

Ward, who still has a bullet lodged in his abdomen, told CBS News that he never threatened Officer Durocher with his gun.

"I was just pretty much trying to get away. Showing no aggression," Ward told the news outlet. "I feel he shot for no reason."

“If I’m just running away, I shouldn’t get shot,” he told The Virginian-Pilot.

On June 12, Ward pleaded guilty to grand larceny, burglary, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, conspiracy to commit larceny, and conspiracy to commit armed burglary, according to WAVY.

Additional charges of destruction of property, brandishing a firearm, and assault of a law enforcement officer were dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

He was sentenced to 31 years in prison, but 25 years of the sentence were suspended by the judge.

Ward will serve six years before he is released onto 10 years of probation.

If convicted of the charges leveled against him, Officer Durocher faces a possible life sentence.

“We, the fraternal organizations of this police department, want to acknowledge our full support of Officer Durocher and his actions in the unfortunate situation that he was forced into by the accused, Mr. Ward,” the FOP said in a statement, according to WTKR. “We want it fully known that it was the actions of one person, Mr. Ward…that brought us here today.”

The FOP noted that Morales had recused herself from Ward’s case several months earlier, “so that she could focus on the investigation of the officer.”

Morales also told the Portsmouth Police Department to “step out” of the investigation in order to “alleviate any fears of bias,” the FOP said.

The FOP argued that Morales and her office should not be involved in either case.

“She should have stepped out of both cases, to totally alleviate these types of fears,” the FOP said.

Although the officer-involved shooting was investigated by the Virginia State Police, Morales never met with the agency as a part of her review of the case, according to the FOP.

State police handed her their investigative findings nearly one year ago.

“It also appears to us that all incidents involving use of force by police officers are going to the Grand Jury,” the FOP’s statement read. “We only feel that it is right that this process be fair, consistent and timely. It is neither.”

“It is out of the ordinary for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s investigator to present any case. Almost every single case presented to the Grand Jury is presented by a Portsmouth Police officer or detective,” the FOP continued. “By presenting this directly from her office, it automatically shows a bias by her office and demonstrates it indirectly to the Grand Jury.”

Officer Ward, a Navy veteran, joined the department approximately six months prior to the incident, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Renninger said that the only person to blame for the shooting is Ward himself.

"The suspect was armed, had burglarized a home and was clearly a danger and a threat in that regard," Renninger told The Virginian-Pilot. "I have no qualms whatsoever in saying that my client’s actions in protecting himself and those around him were justified."

"No police officer can go to work now without looking over their shoulder worried they will be charged simply for doing their job," Renninger told The Virginian-Pilot.

Comments (32)
No. 1-18
MSK
MSK

This is insane. Totally bizarre and insane. Simply put, it is just more of Obama’s war against cops.

Usaf9000
Usaf9000

How did the officer know the criminal had a gun prior to finding it in the criminals pocket if the criminal didn’t have it out?!! These prosecutors are trying to protect the criminals & prosecute the good guys!!! The woman needs to be brought up on charges for filing a false report! When did we start believing the admitted criminals over the sworn peace officer? We had a few very bad incidents where a few officers were corrupt, broke laws and hurt people. That doesn’t mean you start believing the criminals!!!!!!! You weed those bad cops out and give the officers the benefit of the doubt when there is SO MUCH EVIDENCE AGAINST THE CRIMINAL. CRIMINALS CAN’T BE TRUSTED!! What in the world is this woman thinking?! This whole story appears to be pay back for the few bad cops. Vote her out ASAP and hope to god they get a jury with some common sense since the prosecutor has none.

qazwiz
qazwiz

I suggest this be pushed on U.S. Constitutional grounds... "You have a right to a trial by jury..." doesn't make it a requirement... any law, federal OR state, that goes against the constitution is unconstitutional

Miranda rights list a suspect's rights and also states what happens when you waive those rights.

in the same way you have constitutional RIGHT to trial by jury of peers. by definition you may waive that right. so that state law is saying "you have a requirement" that the District Attorney can waive if HE so desires. REQUIREMENTS ARE THE ANTITHESIS OF RIGHTS.

TCSO7801
TCSO7801

Odds are the Prosecutor is up for reelection or is running for a higher office. A convicted felon before the crime, which he plead guilty to, has already had his sentence altered before he serves a day..from 30 years down to 6 years and 10 years probation..... Something stinks to high heaven about this whole case. If found not guilty the officer should sue prosecutor for Malicious Prosecution.

angeleyes
angeleyes

i wonder what her reasons are for doing this... i can think of two

LEO030
LEO030

By forcing this to go in front of a jury, the state attorney is saying that she is hoping emotions play in their decision. What that tells me is she knows a judge would rule in favor of the officer based on what the law is, not some emotional appeal. The defendant, a convicted felon, is making a ridiculous argument that he was shot for no reason. The reason is obvious.

Paul Kersey Jr.
Paul Kersey Jr.

Aaah, ol' Virginny! Sadly, this cop is probably toast in front of a P-Town jury. Morales is a video twerking scumbag who already has one cop scalp on her wall. It befuddles me how she gets any cooperation from PPD at all, with any matter. The cops at PPD need to catch "blue flu", bad. Depolice, let the city burn. They hate the cops anyway. Best wishes to the Officer. It was a Good Shoot. I hope Lucifer keeps Hell hot for CWA Morales, that bitch.

Paul Kersey Jr.
Paul Kersey Jr.

The reason cops usually request Bench trials is they are savvy about the system, juries are unpredictable, ignorant, and sometimes brain dead, but the big problem is JURIES NEVER SEE ALL THE EVIDENCE, this info, including possible Brady material, etc, cannot be hidden from a judge.

charlesjandecka
charlesjandecka

Just another brutal attack on the caucasian male gender by a vile racist female.

Hellmanbb1
Hellmanbb1

She has shown over and over that she is anti cop! She has screwed up prosecuting murderers, but keeps getting re elected! As a resident of Portsmouth, I can tell you that our government officials all suck! They are always the subject of embarrassing news stories! Mrs. Morales decided it would be a good idea to make a booty popping video and post it on social media! She also received campaign money from George Soros! She is a disgrace!

Stanracer
Stanracer

Racist prosecutors all across the country have joined the war on the police. Sad!👎👎

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

glad there is body cam footage on this one.

investigator
investigator

Just look at her....no need to say any more.

CRETE GARY
CRETE GARY

Bet the bad guy is BLACK

61mouse
61mouse

Can't he request a speedy trial ?

mamaofabluelife
mamaofabluelife

What the hell is wrong with these people, the thug gets 6 years and the officer protecting us might get life?I pray this officer wins and then sues the racist attorney and the thug. God Bless our law enforcement

THEDUKE
THEDUKE

Stephanie Morales...yet another in a long line of appointed employees who will then abuse the responsibilities of their own positions to promote their own racially biased agenda. She is doing this to put her finger on the scale of justice. She will load the jury pool with sympathetic minorities who will more likely "look the other way" to provide support for the "poor black" criminal . A ruling by a judge may be far less sympathetic and lean more to abiding by the rule of law.

BlueLM101
BlueLM101

"Ward, who still has a bullet lodged in his abdomen, told CBS News that he never threatened Officer Durocher with his gun."

I'm guessing that the officer used the power of ESP to know that the perp had a gun on him and left one in the residence.