By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
What happened in Riverwalk Community Association in Chesapeake, Virginia on Thursday, January 26, 2017, is shocking.
A 60-year old Asian-American, Jiansheng Chen, was shot to death while sitting in his vehicle in his own neighborhood, while playing Pokemon Go. The alleged shooter, a private security guard employed by Citywide Protection Services.
Riverwalk Community Association has gone on the record stating that the HOA contracts with Citywide to provide unarmed security of the subdivision.
But if Citywide’s security guards are supposed to be unarmed, then why were multiple gunshots fired into the windshield of Chen’s vehicle on that fateful night?
The story has gained the attention of national news media, including the following report by NBC News.
60-Year-Old Grandfather Killed by Security Guard While Playing Pokemon Go: Lawyer
by CHRIS FUCHS, NBC News
Feb. 1, 2017
A 60-year-old grandfather left his house in Virginia Thursday night to play Pokemon Go, but never made it back after being shot to death allegedly by a security officer, according to the victim’s family attorney.
The incident unfolded on Jan. 26 in Chesapeake, Virginia, after Jiansheng Chen dropped his sister-in-law off at home, family attorney Greg Sandler told NBC News. Chen then told his brother he planned to go out to play Pokemon Go — a GPS-based virtual reality game — and left in his van around 10:30 p.m., according to Sandler.
Read more (VIDEO):
The fatal shooting in Riverwalk Community Association should serve as a wakeup call to all Americans living in planned communities patrolled or guarded by private security companies.
(You can read a bit about Citywide Protection Services here.)
If you live in a private common interest community, governed by an owners association, although you are paying taxes for public police protection, you may also be paying for private security services to patrol the community or guard the gates. Why? Because city or county police will not enter private HOAs unless invited (and compensated) or called in the event of a disturbance or true emergency.
In other words, the only way property owners in an association-governed, common interest community gets preventive or proactive security is if their association agrees to pay extra for it. And an increasing number of communities are opting to hire private security firms, rather than making arrangements with their local police departments.
Private security guards are not police officers, even if they are armed, and technically, they are granted lower levels of authority than police officers. However, the distinction between a security guard and a police officer is blurred as individual states grant more authority to private security guards.
That places citizens’ rights – and public saftey – in the gray zone.
When it comes to private security, how much authority is too much? Should private security guards be armed? Should they be allowed to write parking citations, and if so, under what conditions? Under what conditions should a private security guard be allowed to confront trespassers, make traffic stops, search your private vehicle, frisk citizens, deny access to your community, intervene while a crime is in progress, or arrest citizens?
And how will the state hold private security guards accountable when they overstep their authority?
These and more questions come to mind as the police investigation of an HOA resident’s fatal shooting continues in Riverwalk.