There's not much dispute about what happened in the moments leading up to when an off-duty Norfolk police officer shot and killed a man in January 2020 near a Chesapeake grocery store, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.
What is in question is whether Officer Edmund "Ryan" Hoyt fired the shots in self-defense, or whether he "overstepped" and wrongly caused the death of a 42-year-old man, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney D.J. Hansen told jurors during opening arguments in Hoyt's trial Monday in Chesapeake Circuit Court.
Hoyt, 36, is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of Kelvin White. His trial is expected to last three to four days. Hoyt could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The shooting occurred on the afternoon of Jan. 19, 2020 in an alleyway near the Food Lion grocery store on Bainbridge Boulevard.
Hoyt's wife, Jessica, was walking to the store with the couple's two daughters - then ages 2 and 4 - in a stroller when she came upon White, who refused to let the group walk past him, defense attorney Mario Lorello told jurors. White was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but hadn't been taking his prescribed medicines, Lorello said.
Jessica Hoyt told White she had mace with her and "wasn't afraid to use it," Lorello said. White then threatened to stab her in the face, prompting Jessica Hoyt to call her husband, who was at their home about a half-mile away.
During the phone call, Ryan Hoyt thought he'd heard his wife say she'd actually been stabbed in the face, and not just threatened, Lorello said, and raced over to the grocery store in his truck.
When he arrived, Hoyt saw White - who stood at 6 feet 1 inches and weighed 285 pounds - standing near his family.
Hoyt, who is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, got out of his truck, pulled his personal handgun from his holster, told White he was an off-duty police officer and ordered him to the ground, lawyers for both sides agreed. He was dressed in plain clothes and didn't display a badge or anything else to indicate he was an officer.
When White refused, Hoyt re-holstered his gun and attempted to get White to the ground, Lorello said.
White, who had a backpack full of four thick, hard-cover books bound tightly together in a stack, swung the pack in front of him as a kind of homemade body armor, pulled out a knife and twice attempted to stab Hoyt, Lorello said.
That's when Hoyt pulled his gun again and fired multiple times, the defense lawyer said. Several of the shots hit the books in White's backpack but only penetrated some of them.
Three shots hit White, Hansen said, and he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. The only injuries Hoyt suffered were some scratches to the left side of his face, the prosecutor said. Jessica Hoyt and the couple's children were not injured.
"The defendant was obviously concerned about his wife," Hansen said. "But once he got on the scene he overstepped and caused the death of a man that should not have happened."
White lived about a third of a mile from the scene and had threatened others in that same area before that day, Lorello said.
"This is a case about family," Lorello told the jurors in his opening statements. "He (Hoyt) was responding as a father and as a husband."
If Hoyt "reasonably believed" he was in danger of serious bodily injury or death, then he's not guilty of the charges, Lorello said.
Jane Harper, firstname.lastname@example.org