A case of mistaken address by police and conflicting versions of what happened afterwards turned an innocent Portsmouth, Virginia man’s life upside down.
The incident occurred one late night in January 2013, when Brandon Watson’s wife heard noises in her backyard and the door rattling. In a neighborhood rife with weaponry, he grabbed his gun and unable to find his cell phone to call 911, he ran downstairs shouting, “Who is that? Who is that? I’ve got a gun.”
When two red laser beams appeared on his chest, he fired a warning shot and then all hell broke loose, according to WAVY 10 News.
As he bolted through the front door to seek help from his Virginia State Police neighbor, voices yelled, “Stop!
Watson told News 10 that he said, “Who?” and a voice replied, “Who fired the shot out the back window?” He answered “I did,” and the voice in the dark said, “Put down the gun, we just got news you shot at an officer.”
An astonished Watson dropped his gun explaining that nobody came to his front door and he had no idea that police were in his backyard.
Nonetheless, he was arrested and charged with reckless use of a firearm by Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Earle Mobley, despite police having gone to the wrong address.
A judge in Virginia’s General Court found him guilty and in an appeal, a mistrial was declared. At a third trial, Watson asked for a jury and seven peers found him Not Guilty.
Juror Danny Barnes recounted their deliberations, that he had fired only a warning shot, had not acted recklessly, had immediately dropped his gun, had been victimized by police error and that the jury did not believe police testimony claiming their laser beams were pointed at the ground.
As a consequence, Police Chief Ed Hargis modified his gun policy and had the laser sights removed from his officers’ guns, while Watson has been unemployed for ten months because of what the criminal background check reflects.
He is currently pursuing legal remedies for his lost earnings.
Click here to watch the WAVY video.
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