Posted Nov. 5, 2007 – The parents of James R. Dennis want to know why their 21-year-old son was shot dead by Norfolk Police.
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Dennis, a delivery driver for Haynes Furniture, died in the neighborhood where he had grown up, The Virginian-Pilot reports.
“He gets up every day at 4 a.m. and goes to work,” his father, James Gorham, told the newspaper, as he stood in the living room of his own home in north Suffolk. “He worked six days a week. We just don’t understand it. Why him?”
Police say that two uniformed officers were looking into an unrelated disturbance at a trailer park late Wednesday when they heard gunshots and headed in that direction on foot. When they arrived, police say they saw Dennis “actively firing a weapon at an unknown target. The officers verbally challenged the suspect, at which time he turned and pointed the weapon at the officers,” according to the statement. Both officers fired, and Dennis was killed at the scene.
But Dennis’ parents say that the three men who were with their son when he died told them a much different story.
According to those witnesses, Dennis had been robbed and shot in the leg. When police arrived, they said, the robbers fled. The men told the parents that Dennis fell to his knees and raised his hands before police fired. A neighbor, Dominique Jones, said she looked outside after hearing shots, and saw Dennis standing with his hands in the air.
While police spokesman Chris Amos said it was true that Dennis was standing, he also had a gun in his hand when he turned toward officers.
“There’s been no shortage of witnesses that have corroborated what the officers on the scene said,” Amos said, adding that a robbery has “not been ruled out.”
As is standard practice, the two officers are on paid administrative leave until the case has been investigated. One officer has been on the force for 18 years, the other for two years.
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