Probe of Mistaken Death Declaration of Shooting Victim Continues in Newport News, VA

June 12, 2024
Two Newport News firefighters were fired after an investigation showed they failed to follow protocols.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 15, first responders found Quandrell Williams lying on the porch of a Newport News home. He had been shot several times, including once in the head. He was taken to the hospital, but ultimately died 10 days later.

The man charged with shooting Williams, Lakavious Lamont Charity, has a preliminary hearing set for Wednesday. But the criminal case isn’t the only pending legal matter stemming from the homicide.

The city’s fire and police departments may face legal action over their response and treatment of Williams. In recent months, the city’s handling of the situation has come under scrutiny.

WAVY-TV reported in April that two Newport News firefighters were terminated after an internal investigation found they ignored protocols while responding to Williams’ shooting. A civil lawsuit is expected, as the estate of Quandrell Williams — which is administered by Leona Murphy, Quandrell’s mother — has filed a notice of claim against the city. The claim accuses the city of failing to provide adequate care for Williams.

The city has provided little information about the incident in the months since the 39-year-old’s death, declining to provide a timeline of events or to make officials available for interviews. Mayor Phillip Jones declined to comment. Fire Chief Wesley Rogers declined to speak with the Daily Press about the matter, saying he is not allowed to make any further statements on the issue and referred the Daily Press to a city spokesperson.

“There are no words to convey our sorrow for Mr. Williams’ death,” said a city spokesperson in a statement provided in response to a list of written questions about the shooting and city’s emergency response. “The city is aware that the emergency responders on the scene of Mr. Williams’ shooting did not live up to Newport News’ Standards of Conduct in responding to his injuries, and the city has already taken appropriate corrective action.”

The city did not address questions including what medics found when they arrived at the crime scene at 1024 Garden Dr., what mistakes were made in providing care for Williams, whether anyone was fired over the incident and what steps the city has taken to ensure a proper emergency response in the future.

It is unclear to what degree the city’s response to the shooting will come up during criminal proceedings. Charity was arrested in December and charged with second-degree murder in connection with Williams’ death. A preliminary hearing for Charity is set for Wednesday. Several city police officers and Riverside Regional Medical Center officials are among the witnesses subpoenaed to attend the preliminary hearing.

For months after Williams’ death, the city never publicly acknowledged there was any issue with the emergency response to the shooting or that anyone involved in the response had been disciplined. The first public acknowledgment of mistakes came in the April 10 report from WAVY-TV.

Anonymous sources told WAVY that Williams laid alive for at least 40 minutes with a gunshot wound to his head before he was transported to the hospital. At that time, Rogers gave an interview in which he told WAVY that medics who responded declared Williams deceased.

“After some time of being on the incident, they realized that Mr. Williams was not deceased,” Rogers told WAVY. “And at that time they loaded him and transported him to the hospital.”

Rogers also told WAVY that protocols were not followed and that an internal investigation began shortly after the incident. He said employees involved went through a discipline process, although he declined to go into specifics.

Williams’ family has filed a notice of intent to seek damages against Newport News Emergency Medical Services employees and Newport News Police Department employees due to their actions on Oct. 15. In a letter sent April 2 to the city, attorney Edward Fiorella said their actions include, at a minimum, “negligence due to their failure to administer the appropriate and/or adequate medical care, and general negligence resulting in violating the captioned decedent’s rights and contributing and/or causing to his subsequent death thereafter on October 25, 2023.” Fiorella declined to discuss the legal matter this week.

The Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city seeking information about the response to Williams’ shooting and any investigation in the aftermath. Documents sought included any reports, emails, texts or written communication pertaining to what happened to Williams. Also sought was body camera footage from public safety officials who responded to the Oct. 15 shooting and communications pertaining to an investigation into the response by the city’s first responders.

Senior Deputy City Attorney Lynn Spratley said the city withheld over 100 of pages of documents under FOIA exemptions. Some included written advice from legal counsel, personnel records, and an 80-page administrative investigation report done on the fire department’s response. The city also declined to release eight police body camera videos, all of which are a part of the criminal investigative file.

Communications that were turned over indicate an investigative report on the incident was completed by Nov. 9. Text messages between City Manager Alan Archer and the mayor show the city was taking precautions to avoid disclosure of information about the incident through FOIA. On Nov. 22, Jones asked Archer for a copy of an internal fire report, and Archer asked if he meant the fire department’s internal investigative file regarding the incident.

“It would not be advisable for me to send such a document to you by email,” Archer wrote. “The document would not be exempt from a FIOA (sic) request unless the City Attorney’s Office sent it you under client attorney privilege.”


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