Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 31, 2020
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//August 31, 2020//
A 60-year-old, unarmed Chinese immigrant and resident of a planned urban development was shot and killed by an armed security guard. The guard was employed by a security agency under contract with the community association for that development.
On Jan. 26, 2017, the decedent was seated in his vehicle in a parking lot of a common area of the association known as “The Clubhouse.” The decedent was playing the mobile game, Pokemon Go, when the security guard confronted him, claiming the decedent had been barred previously from The Clubhouse area for violating a curfew imposed by the community association.
In rapid succession, the security guard drove over to the area where the decedent was parked, exited his vehicle, drew his firearm and demanded that the decedent exit his vehicle. When the decedent, who did not speak English, failed to comply and attempted to leave the area, the security guard fired 10 gunshots through the driver’s side window and windshield of the van. Five of the gunshots struck the decedent, who died at the scene.
The security guard claimed that he fired his gun in self-defense; he claimed that the decedent was trying to run him over. However, a compilation of physical evidence at the scene, the security guard’s own statements, the autopsy report and footage from a neighbor’s security camera belied that claim.
The security guard admitted that the first two shots were fired through the driver’s side window, a statement that contradicted his story that the van was coming at him when he shot. While the security camera footage did not capture video of the actual shooting, it did contain a vivid audio account of the incident in which the speed with which the security guard raced to confront the victim, the rapid sequence in which he exited his vehicle, him demanding that the decedent to get out of his van and him unloading 10 rounds from his semi-automatic 9 mm handgun. All of this footage pointed to the security guard as the aggressor.
The case was investigated by the police and the security guard was ultimately charged with first degree murder. The criminal case was tried before a jury, which convicted the security guard of second degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to 30 years in the penitentiary.
The wrongful death claim, which was filed before the criminal trial took place, lay dormant for many months because much of the evidence related to the shooting, and the relationships among the security guard, his employer and the community association, were protected from disclosure pending the conclusion of the criminal investigation and trial.
Suit was brought against the security guard and his employer on theories of respondeat superior and negligent hiring and retention; suit was also brought against the community association on theories of agency, negligent monitoring and supervision and third party beneficiary.
The case settled at mediation for $1,500,000.
Type of action: Wrongful death
Injuries alleged: Death
Name of judge or mediator: Judge B. Waugh Crigler
Date resolved: 01/29/2020
Special damages: Funeral bill; $26,100
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Attorney(s) for plaintiff: John R. Fletcher, Scott J. Flax and James O. Broccoletti, all of Norfolk