The city of Portsmouth will pay $200,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who was shot by a police officer in 2017 as he ran from a burglary.
But the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing on the part of Officer Jeremy Durocher, according to the city.
Durocher, who remains with the department, is scheduled to go to trial later this year on charges of aggravated malicious wounding and using a firearm in the shooting of Deontrace Ward, then 18. If convicted, Durocher faces the possibility of life in prison.
“Hopefully this settlement will be a wake-up to the taxpayers, who should insist that police officers are properly trained,” said S.W. Dawson, Ward’s lawyer.
Dawson stuck the deal with the city to settle the lawsuit, which originally sought $2.35 million, following extended negotiations.
“All parties thought it was for the best,” acting City Attorney Burle Stromberg said. “We’re just glad it’s resolved.”
On Oct. 29, 2017, Ward was running from a burglary in the 1100 block of Tatem Ave. when Durocher shot him in the arm and back.
In a video recorded by the officer’s body camera, Durocher can be heard yelling “He has a gun!” when he first sees Ward running from the home. Later on in the video, Durocher tells other officers that Ward “waved” the gun at him.
Police found a pistol inside the bottom of Ward’s pant leg.
In an interview with The Virginian-Pilot, Ward denied pulling his weapon. He later pleaded guilty in 2018 to breaking into the home, stealing jewelry and illegally possessing a gun, though. He currently is serving a six-year prison sentence.
The Portsmouth Police Department named Durocher officer of the month and gave him a medal of valor following the shooting.
Nicholas Renninger, an attorney for Durocher in the criminal case, has said the officer shot Ward because he believed the teen posed a significant threat to himself and others.
In Ward’s civil lawsuit, Dawson wrote that the officer yelled for Ward to get on the ground, without verbally identifying himself as an officer, after the teen was spotted jumping out of a window and running.
After Ward hopped over a fence, Durocher “steadied himself,” “took careful aim” and fired “as if hunting wild game,” Dawson wrote in the lawsuit.
Ward was hit by at least two bullets and had “serious and debilitating injuries,” his lawyer wrote.
Margaret Matray, 757-222-5216, firstname.lastname@example.org
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