YPSO: Body Camera Captures Unprovoked Suspect Pulling Gun on Deputy

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Damien Alexander Harrell (Courtesy Newport News Police Department)
Damien Alexander Harrell (Courtesy Newport News Police Department)

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: The suspect involved in the fatal shooting has  been identified as 26-year-old Damien A. Harrell of Newport News.


Because of the body camera worn by the deputy, York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs said his office has an unedited, unbiased account of a 26-year-old Newport News man who pulled a gun on a deputy on Fort Eustis Boulevard early Wednesday morning.

The deputy fired six shots at the suspect, whose name is not being released at this time, after the gun was pulled. Two bullets hit the suspect in the torso at around 6:22 a.m., and he died at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News.

Diggs said the man was a convicted felon out of Newport News and was wanted for several charges, including  failure to appear, assault, brandishing a firearm,  grand larceny of a firearm and unauthorized use of a vehicle. His criminal record included several robberies from 2004 and 2005, a felonious assault charge from 2004, grand larceny of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, all of which carried jail time.

The deputy who shot the suspect captured the entire 24-minute confrontation on video thanks to the body camera strapped to his chest.

Diggs showed reporters a portion of the video Wednesday afternoon during a press conference.

The video begins after deputies pull over on Fort Eustis Boulevard near Richneck Road to investigate a white Ford Crown Victoria disabled in the grass median.

The video shows the suspect sitting on the railing and two deputies — who were both wearing body cameras — asking him for his name. Another man who deputies later discovered was part of the car accident was standing about 200 yards away facing Route 17.

Diggs said the suspect gave them a false name, and the deputies were not able to find him in their system.

They asked him to explain what had occurred with the car, and the man responded he was simply walking and had nothing to do with the car.

The deputies asked him several more times over the course of 10 minutes to tell them his name and what he is doing in that location, and he tells them he was walking to his friend’s “crib” when he tried to help the people in the car that was stopped on the median.

In trying to find out more about the man, the deputies prompt him as to whether he is wanted for any charges or has any jail time “hanging over his head,” but the man shrugs and does not answer except to say, “I’m just chilling, how am I supposed to act?”

“Tell me who you are or I put some bracelets on and I take you to jail,” one of the deputies says after several prompts for answers prove unsuccessful.

Diggs said the deputies had a “gut feeling” something was not right, and they asked to pat the man down, but the man refused.

deputy-involved shooting

A few seconds later, the man stood, lifted his black T-shirt slightly, reached into the waistband of his shorts, pulled out a black .380 caliber Bersa semi-automatic handgun and began to point it in the direction of the deputies.

The deputy, who was  standing about 3 feet from the suspect, pulled his own gun and shot six times at the suspect, who fell to the pavement.

The two deputies began shouting “Shots fired!” and “Don’t move!” as they call for backup, and the video ends.

“I’m glad it was a well-trained deputy sheriff out there instead of me, I’ve been a desk jockey for quite some time and I don’t know in my heart that I would have survived that encounter,” Diggs said, choking up as he praised the deputy for his quick reaction.

An investigation revealed the suspect was the driver of the white car and was riding with the other man, who — upon hearing shots fired — ran from the accident to the deputies, who yelled at him to stop.

The man refused to obey the deputies’ orders, so one of them tazed him, Diggs said. The man was later transported to the hospital for any injuries he may have succumbed because of the tazing.

Diggs said no outside agencies would be used to investigate the incident.

“I am 100 percent confident in the capabilities and the trustworthiness of my investigators,” Diggs said.

Diggs said the body cameras — purchased in 2014 and worn by all patrol officers and deputies in the York-Poquoson Courthouse — proved essential in providing an “unbiased, unedited account” of the events.

“I think this video camera reinforces that we are out here every day doing the best job we can do and put ourselves in extreme jeopardy,” he said.

“Of course this is a traumatic incident for all the deputies involved,” Diggs said, adding the men would be offered leave time, counseling and any additional resources they needed to recuperate from the incident.

This is the second deputy-involved shooting YPSO has had in the last six years. In 2009, a man who officers believed had a bomb and a handgun was shot on Arabian Circle by a deputy in what Diggs described as a “suicide by cop scenario.”

The Sheriff’s Office is not releasing the video to the public at this time, and the investigation is ongoing.

Diggs said he would not disclose the name of the deputy who shot the man, citing his and the other deputies’ safety.

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YPSO: Body Camera Captures Unprovoked Suspect Pulling Gun on Deputy