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“We almost had an officer executed:” Virginia Beach police release footage from traffic stop

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Caitlyn Burchett

The Virginian-Pilot

(TNS)

The chief of Virginia Beach Police Department spoke out for first the time about an officer’s fatal shooting of a 28-year-old man last week, sharing video footage that captured the traffic stop and physical struggle that occurred in the moments leading up to the shooting.

“We almost had an officer executed for doing his job, protecting the city of Virginia Beach,” Neudigate said. “Violence and crime is plaguing our nation and our region and it almost cost him his life. I think what we witnessed is a testament to his training, his skill and his will to survive.”

The chief shared still images and video footage during a news conference Monday at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, four days after 28-year-old Deshawn Whitaker was shot and killed by a uniformed Virginia Beach officer in the Newtown Baker Crossing parking lot.

The five-minute-long compilation of footage shows the officer try to subdue a woman, who police said grabs at a gun in her waistband several times. As they struggle, the video shows Whitaker walk toward the officer. Police said the video shows Whitaker point a gun at the officer, who then fired four shots. Whitaker was struck at least once, Neudigate said.

The footage begins with the officer parked in front of the Grand Mart in the shopping center parking lot when a vehicle drives through the plaza. An automated license plate reader fixed to the patrol car alerted the officer that the vehicle had been reported stolen during the early morning hours of Nov. 20. The following day, Neudigate said, the vehicle was involved in a police pursuit in Newport News.

The vehicle parked in front of Smoke Shop at the other end of the plaza and an occupant in the backseat got out of the vehicle and went into a store. The officer parked his car behind the vehicle driven by Whitaker.

The full dashcam video (age-restricted) can be viewed on YouTube.

The officer’s body worn camera shows Whitaker getting out of the car as the officer approached. The officer attempted to handcuff Whitaker, at which point Whitaker fled on foot, dropping a bag in the process.

The officer ran around the vehicle to detain the passenger, 20-year-old Jacqueline Ortiz. As the officer attempted to detain Ortiz, her shirt came up in the back and his body worn camera captured what police said was a handgun concealed in her waistband. The two struggled, and the footage showed her grabbing for the gun multiple times while the officer shouted at her not to grab it.

While the officer and Ortiz were physically struggling, police said Whitaker returned and pointed a gun at the officer. Neudigate said the officer fired his gun four times. Whitaker was struck at least one time in the upper torso, said Neudigate, noting the medical examiner’s officer has not yet released their findings.

Around 55 seconds later, Norfolk Fire Rescue can be seen helping detain Ortiz while two other firefighters rush to aid Whitaker.

Whitaker was transported to a hospital after the shooting, but died at the hospital shortly after midnight.

The officer was treated for minor injuries at the scene and released. The department said the involved officer, who has 14 years of law enforcement experience — including 7 with Virginia Beach — is on administrative leave.

Ortiz was also transported to a hospital and treated for minor injuries. She is charged with possession of stolen property, concealed weapon, possession of firearm after a domestic violence conviction and brandishing a firearm.

Neudigate said a third occupant of the vehicle, who exited the vehicle from the backseat and went into a store before the traffic stop, is not being charged.

According to Neudigate, police officials met with Whitaker’s family Monday afternoon to express their condolences and show them the same footage shared during the press conference.

“Any loss of life is a tragedy and our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this event,” Neudigate said. “No officer wants to take a life.”

The department took issue with eye witness accounts gathered by media immediately following the scene, including reports that Whitaker and Ortiz did not have firearms and that Whitaker did not receive immediate medical attention.

“We know that evidence preservation and maintaining the integrity of investigation is paramount … and information is not released immediately. But we also have a lot of misinformation that is bubbling up in our community that are beginning to take a life of its own,” Neudigate said.

Around two hours after the shooting, Virginia Beach Police Department provided a statement to members of the media at the scene. The next day, 24 hours after the shooting, a detailed news release was issued by the department.

“When we put out a press release, we have to be right. I understand the community wants instantaneous information. We provide what we can prove,” Neudigate said. “Transparency, unfortunately, does not equal immediacy.”

While Neudigate said the videos are “compelling,” he cautioned it is “just one piece of the investigation.”

“There still has to be a comparison of what occurred versus the legal standard by the commonwealth attorney’s office,” Neudigate said.

Once the Virginia Beach Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney completes its parallel, independent criminal investigation, the police department will conduct its own administrative review of its officer policies and training.

Staff writer Eliza Noe contributed to this report.

©2022 The Virginian-Pilot. Visit pilotonline.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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