Officer Brian Jones
Photo credit: Norfolk Police Department
NORFOLK, Va. -- A police officer and a 17-year-old boy are dead, and another officer was wounded during a series of shootings by one man around Tidewater Drive late Friday. The gunman was killed by police after a struggle.
Mark Rodriguez, a student at Norfolk Christian School, was shot and killed inside his vehicle about 10:50 p.m. when 29-year-old James Andrew Brown began randomly shooting from his vehicle in the southbound lane of Chesapeake Boulevard, near the 8400 block, police spokeswoman Karen Parker-Chesson said.
Michael Dixon went into a convenience store near the corner of Tidewater Drive and Stanley Street about 10:30 p.m. to play the lottery. He said he heard gunfire from outside a short time later. Another shot followed a few minutes after that.
"This can't be happening," he thought.
Officer Brian Jones responded to the scene and saw Brown's Jeep in the 7400 block of Wellington Road, where Brown lived. A short time later, an off-duty officer joined him.
Brown started shooting from inside his residence with a high-powered rifle, police Chief Mike Goldsmith said at a news conference this morning. Jones was struck several times, and Officer Curtis Allison was hit while trying to help Jones, Parker-Chesson said.
Roberta Howe lives a few doors down from Brown. She heard the gunfire and told her husband to get down. Once she figured out who was involved, she called 911 to tell them that Brown's rottweiler, Max, was inside the house.
She would often see Brown walk his dog in the afternoons in the past four or five years he lived on Wellington.
"He was just as nice and respectful as can be," she said. "All I can think is that he snapped. He must have."
Brown was convicted for assault of a police officer on Oct. 23, 2010, according to court documents. The charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, and he was sentenced to a year in prison in June 2011. He was also convicted of carrying a loaded weapon in July 2012. He was sentenced to a year in prison in October 2012.
Neighbors are heartbroken that the officer was killed on their street, she said.
"For this to happen here, we feel horrible. The officer didn't have a chance. And for what?" she said.
After the officers were shot, Brown drove away, north on Galveston Boulevard, then onto East Little Creek Road, where he hit another car.
Erin Ortiz was in her living room in the 7900 block of Galveston when she heard a crash outside. She stepped out of her house and saw Brown's red Jeep smashed into a parked car across the street. Police cars quickly swarmed the area from East Little Creek Road.
One officer tried to restrain Brown on the ground, but he got up again, Ortiz said. She saw Brown grab the officer's gun, and she ran back inside, locking the door. By the time she came out again, Brown was dead on the ground.
Brown had gotten out of his car and refused to comply with an officer's commands, Parker-Chesson said. The officer attempted to arrest Brown, but he began to fight and try to disarm the officer. The officer then shot Brown.
"We didn't know, obviously, what had happened before this. But you could tell they had been chasing him by the amount of cop cars there were," Ortiz said.
Jones and Allison were taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where Jones died. Allison, an eight-year veteran, has been released, Parker-Chesson said.
Jones, a five-year veteran of the department, is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.
Goldsmith said that it was too soon to know why Brown started shooting or how many shots were fired.
Of Jones, he said, "he loved his job, he loved his community, and he will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him."
Jones was a an impeccable officer, whose 6 foot 5 inch height and distinctive Kentucky drawl, always made him stand out, said Randy Brann, president of the Norfolk police union.
"He knew when to take action, when to be sympathetic and when to put someone in jail," Brann said. "He had that country accent. ... There was no question it was him on the radio."
Brann said he last saw Jones a few weeks ago and joked that Jones should build him a picnic table like the one he built with his kids.
"He was a better father than he was a police officer, and he was a great officer," Brann said.
Mayor Paul Fraim, speaking at the news conference, said the situation is tragic at every level.
"There are going to be a lot of questions," he said, "and right now there aren't enough answers."
Pat McCarty, the head of Norfolk Christian, sent an email this afternoon to the school community with the news of Mark Rodriguez's death and asking people to pray for the boy's family.
Rodriguez was a rising senior, according to McCarty, and the teenager was killed on his way home from graduation festivities.
"I have been praying, weeping and trying to process this information for hours," McCarty wrote. "Knowing that Mark's sweet smile is looking at the face of the Savior he loves, knowing that his worship is sweeter than he ever imagined, does not help my heart accept that we have lost him for a time."
In his email, McCarty referenced a blog post that Rodriguez had written last month.
"I've been meditating on heaven a lot lately," Rodriguez wrote, "and I must say, it wells my eyes with tears of joy every now and then. What a beautiful thought that one day, I will be completely in the presence of God and will actually be able to feel the magnitude of all his love and peace with no earthly fears or worries to distract me. The joy that I feel now, the serenity I feel now, will finally be made perfect."
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