Jiansheng Chen
The Chen family
February 07, 2017 03:58 PM

A Virginia security guard claims he was forced to fatally shoot an unarmed grandfather playing Pokémon Go last month when the 60-year-old tried to run him down after an altercation, according to an attorney for the guard’s private security company.

The still-unidentified guard was trying “to protect himself from death or grievous bodily injury” from “an imminent threat in the form of a heavy motor vehicle bearing down on him,” attorney Andrew Sacks claimed in both a news conference Monday and in a five-page statement released to PEOPLE.

Sacks represents Citywide Protection Services, which employs the guard involved in the shooting. His allegations further complicate an incident that remains under investigation by local police, with information disputed among the key parties. Investigators have not yet provided a detailed description of what happened.

So far, police say that on the night of Jan. 26, Jiansheng Chen was sitting in his minivan outside the community clubhouse at River Walk, his neighborhood in Chesapeake, Virginia, when a guard confronted him while he played Pokémon.

“An altercation ensued and the security guard shot the victim” about 11:10 p.m., Chesapeake police said in a news release at the time.

Chen did not have a weapon on him or in his minivan, according to police, and it is a matter of dispute whether or not the guard was supposed to be armed. Chen’s family said his English was severely limited and the language barrier may have been a factor.

Citywide’s attorney said the guard “was fully authorized” to carry a weapon. But a River Walk spokesman on Tuesday reiterated an earlier statement from the neighborhood association that guards were contracted to provide “unarmed roving patrol services for the common areas of the community.” (That contract was suspended after the shooting.)

Chen was repeatedly shot while sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle, the family’s attorney, Greg Sandler, told PEOPLE. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sandler said Chen had gone to the clubhouse — which is a gym in Pokémon, a valuable location for players — in order to play the game as a way to bond with relatives who enjoyed it.

Describing Chen’s minivan after the shooting, Sandler told PEOPLE, “There are five or six bullet holes in a confined pattern through the driver’s side window at almost chest height. It’s an astounding response by a security person to really anything.”

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Jiansheng Chen (center)
The Chen family

What Caused the Shooting?

No charges have been filed and the guard involved has not been identified.

A Chesapeake police spokeswoman says the investigation is ongoing and all possibilities are under review — including a possible conflict with Chen’s vehicle or a miscommunication. The spokeswoman says there is no timetable for the investigation’s conclusion.

Sacks claims Chen and his relatives have a history of run-ins with the security company, including “bar notices” for being in “prohibited areas” after hours. Authorities say no police were involved in these alleged disputes.

Sacks says that on the night of the shooting, the guard saw a blue minivan in an area where it had been “previously barred” and approached the driver — Chen — on foot to ask why he had returned.

Chesapeake police confirm that the security guard did stop to question the victim. But what happened to trigger the shooting is still unclear. Sacks claimed in his statement that Chen “refused lawful commands from the security officer to stop” his vehicle.

He “backed up [the van] and started moving forward, at which point the officer was in front of the van again commanding that it stop,” Sacks said.

Chen instead “directed the vehicle towards the officer, who attempted to get out of the way and requested that the driver stop,” Sacks claimed, adding, “Whatever evasive action the security guard tried to take, the van tracked and followed the officer, ignoring commands to stop.”

In an interview with PEOPLE after his news conference, Sacks said, “The company is extremely sympathetic to the family of the deceased and feels for them, but is equally strong in its belief that the guard had every right to protect his life and fire in self-defense.

“He was armed for protection and unfortunately he had to protect himself.”

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Chesapeake police confirm that Chen’s vehicle was found at the scene outside of a parking space, but could not comment further on Sacks’ allegations about it being used as a weapon.

In an email to PEOPLE, Sandler wrote of Sachs’ statement: “What I have seen fails to answer a host of questions, fails to explain why an armed citizen was able to use deadly force with an unarmed citizen and fails to address the discrepancy between River Walk’s contract for unarmed security and the security guards carrying of a weapon. Most notably, the identification of the security guard was not disclosed.”

‘It’s Not Right’

Sandler said the Chen family remains “devastated” by the death of the man they described as persevering, open-hearted and wise. Chen was the first of his relatives to immigrate to the U.S. from Fujian, China, his relatives told PEOPLE.

Protesters gathered during Sacks’ news conference on Monday, holding signs that read: “Justice for all,” “Justice for Grandpa Chen” and “No license to kill,” the Virginian-Pilot reports.

Jenny Sung, a longtime friend of the Chen family who carried a “Justice for Chen” sign, told the Pilot he was a hard worker who wanted to take care of his family.

“The victim was just sitting in his car,” she said. “It’s not right.”

• With reporting by ADAM CARLSON

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