New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | April 14, 2024

Newport News man receives three life sentences for attempted murder, armed robbery in Charles City

By Andre Jones | March 5, 2024 7:28 pm

“I don’t know who won in this situation. I don’t know who lost either.”

Those were the words of former Charles City Deputy Alisha Buchanan, the victim of an Aug. 1, 2022, shooting that involved Yahsim Tremaine Williams, 23, of Newport News, during Williams’ sentencing hearing Tuesday morning in Charles City Circuit Court.

Buchanan was the responding officer to a robbery at the Dollar General Store, located at 10341 Courthouse Road. During a two-day jury trial on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2023, testimony presented showed that an unknown man approached Nelson Peck, a new employee, and ordered him to get money out of the safe. The way the robbery was conducted was similar to robberies that occurred in New Kent and James City County in prior weeks before the one in Charles City.

The manager, Emerald Johnson, called police from the office, with Buchanan arriving first on scene. Body camera footage showed the deputy walking in the front door without her weapon drawn. Shortly after the doors parted open, shots rang out and Buchanan attempted to retreat. But as the officer did, a bullet struck the deputy’s back, who survived thanks to a bulletproof vest before she returned fired. Buchanan was taken to the VCU Medical Center as a result of the shootout.

For weeks, the suspect remained unidentified until Oct. 24, 2022, when Williams was pulled over in Newport News for a traffic infraction. After a brief stop, a chase involving Williams took place before the defendant’s vehicle crashed into the dumpster. And while the driver escaped, multiple IDs and a cell phone would lead to Williams’ arrest.

When Newport News Detective Cal Neidengard was trying to identify the owner of the cell phone, technology to unlock the phone was able to pick up messages, email, and other records on the phone belonging to Williams. Among data recovered including information from a search engine topic “How long does it take to solve a robbery?” and several articles referencing the Aug. 1, 2022 robbery in Charles City County.

The information recovered allowed Virginia State Police Officer Kecia Purdue to execute a search warrant on Williams’ residence in Hampton on Oct. 31. Among items recovered included shell casings similar to the ones found at the scene of the Dollar General Robbery, as well as a black glove with red lettering and a gray top that were similar in appearance to the robber’s clothing.

Richmond’s branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) became involved, with testimony from Agent Jeremy D’Errico on how Williams’ phone pinged at a cell tower approximately 1.6 miles away from the crime scene. In addition, forensic science expert Memory Dalton tested the gloves for DNA, with the left glove having strands that indicated that Williams’ could have worn it during the crime.

The jury heard additional evidence, with the panel siding with the prosecution on one charge each of use of a firearm in commission of a felony (first offense), use of a firearm in a commission of a felony (second offense), robbery that resulted in serious injury, assault that resulted in serious injury, and attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

Tuesday morning’s trial allowed Buchanan to reflect and comment on the situation, with her demeanor still trying to process the events that happened a year-and-a-half ago.

“I don’t know how to feel,” she said. “This event has affected me spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially.

“I never thought I would have to retire,” Buchanan continued, saying that the stress of the situation has led her to leave law enforcement after a six-year career and seek additional services. “Despite that, I do pray for myself, and I pray for you [Williams].”

Family members of Williams took the stand, with each one saying how the actions by the defendant were out of character. But as each family member spoke, they asked for a second chance for Williams in life.

Charles City Commonwealth’s Attorney Tyler Klink’s closing argument challenged the statements made by the defendant’s family about providing another opportunity.

“We hear about grace and mercy, but this Commonwealth’s Attorney doesn’t see that in this case here,” Klink said. “We heard about giving people second chances by the defendant’s family, but Deputy Buchanan didn’t get that. He [Williams] didn’t try to give her a second chance.

“Legally, this is defined as attempted aggravated murder,” Klink continued. “But when she went into the store, she didn’t have her gun out. This was more like an execution.

“This man is a danger to the public and he needs the maximum sentence of three life sentences plus eight years. This is not a rehabilitation case; this is a punishment case.”

Defense attorney J. Todd Duval argued, saying his client’s past has minimal crimes on it.

“Mr. Williams’ record is not extensive, and he does not have a bad criminal history,” Duval argued. “Unlike many clients in cases like this, he has the support of his family.

“This incident just seems to be one where he was out of character,” the defendant attorney continued. “He is a young man with a full life ahead of him and I ask the court to consider the minimum sentence under the state law.”

After five minutes of contemplating and evaluating evidence, Judge B. Elliott Bondurant did not mince words when issuing sentences against Williams.

“I remember this case vividly and I remember watching the body camera footage,” the judge said. “I remember seeing when the doors opening in the store and the deputy was staring down the barrel of a gun.

“The deputy runs and even before she pulls out her gun, three shots were fired,” Bondurant continued. “It was discovered that eight casings were found there on the scene. The court also remembers seeing pictures of the defendant holding a firearm, even though he had been convicted of a crime related to having a firearm.

“The court finds that he is a danger to the public,” the judge concluded.

Williams received life sentences on the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, robbery that resulted in a serious injury, and assault with a victim injured convictions. He received a mandatory three-year sentence on the use of a firearm in commission of a felony (first offense) conviction, and a mandatory five-year sentence on the use of a firearm in commission of a felony (second offense).

Williams plans to appeal his conviction to the Virginia Court of Appeals. He also faces additional charges from the federal government.