Details emerging in mysterious shooting death of a 16-year-old in South Richmond alley

Posted at 1:14 AM, Mar 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-13 12:07:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Richmond police and prosecutors have released very few details in the two weeks since 16-year-old Robert Lee Fox of Mechanicsville was fatally shot in a South Richmond alley.

The shooter hasn’t been identified by police, or charged since the early morning shooting on February 25 in the 3600 block of McRand Street.

CBS-6 has learned the shooter is  African-American, in his late 20s and apparently is a military veteran. He has since moved out of the rental house.

In early or mid-April, a  Richmond grand jury will decide whether charges should be filed against him for shooting the unarmed teen during what, we’re told, was a confrontation over the break-in of a vehicle owned by the resident.

CBS-6 has requested recordings of the 911 calls that night from the residence, which I’m told report the break-in in the alley.

Our request was refused  because those recordings are part of the police investigation.

There is no video evidence, we’re told. Apparently, there were words exchanged between the teen and the resident after the break-in was discovered, and the homeowner heard what he believed to be threatening words.

The grand jury will have to decide what exactly was said and whether it constituted a threat. Could the resident have reasonably interpreted that he was in danger, much like a bank teller listening to a robber threatening that he has a weapon and will use it?

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring declined to release specific details of the incident.

“I don’t think the facts are going to be much in dispute,” he said. “I think the issue if going to be whether the reaction to the facts as they presented themselves is appropriate or not.”

In Virginia, Herring said, citizens can legally use deadly force to protect themselves, but not their property.

Herring said he does expect “the witness accounts of the incident to vary depending on whether they were witnesses who were with the victim or witnesses who were with the property owner.”

He believes the investigation will be thorough and hopes that grand jury weighs that evidence with great and careful deliberation.

Herring’s history indicates a low tolerance for citizens opening fire in defense of property.

For example, four years ago, Virginia Union student Eric Driver faced 2nd degree murder charges after he shot and killed a masked man who had broken into his girlfriend’s car and yelled threateningly at her when she caught him in the act. Driver was convicted of manslaughter and served no time.

“As a prosecutor,” Herring said, “I don’t want people using deadly force to protect property. I don’t want people using deadly force to apprehend those who are fleeing the scene.”

In fact, he said, he wants citizens to retreat to safety whenever they can and to call police instead of trying to deal with dangerous situations themselves.

“Rarely does anything good come of that,” Herring said.