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Sailor accused of murder at Navy party shot in self-defense, lawyer says

Neon lights twinkle above police line tape on Aug. 10, 2016.

GINA FERAZZI/LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

By JONATHAN EDWARDS | The Virginian-Pilot (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 17, 2017

NORFOLK, Va. — A sailor and aspiring police officer was working as a bouncer this month when he shot and killed a man in self-defense, his lawyer said Friday.

Donald Dwight Lee Bowman, who’s charged with murder, was working security at a party packed with fellow Navy personnel in the 700 block of Washington Ave. on Nov. 4, attorney Trevor Robinson told a judge in an effort to get his client out of jail on bond.

James Henderson Jr. was among a group that showed up at the house, where more than 100 people were partying, Robinson said. He told Bowman he didn’t like the “stink eye” he was giving him. Bowman, who was working the door, tried to defuse the confrontation by saying he looked at everyone like that, Robinson said.

A short while later, as the party was winding down, the host asked Henderson and his friends to leave, Robinson said. They did, but Bowman got word that Henderson was getting a gun from his vehicle in front of the house.

Then, from about 10 feet , Henderson pointed it at Bowman, Robinson said.

Bowman tried to calm things down, his lawyer said. He held up his hand and told Henderson it didn’t have to be like that.

Henderson lowered the gun but quickly raised it again, forcing Bowman to fire, Robinson said.

A gunfight erupted. Dozens of bullets flew.

Bowman ran to his vehicle as people fired at him, Robinson said. At least four bullets struck the vehicle, breaking the back windshield and hitting the trunk and dashboard.

He tried calling 911 twice as he drove away but couldn’t get through, Robinson said. He eventually parked his car at the Downtown Tunnel inspection station and told someone he’d been shot in a gunfight. He also directed police to the house on Washington Avenue so they could make sure people got help.

Henderson died from gunshot wounds to the torso, said Arkuie Williams, administrator for the state’s Chief Medical Examiner. Paramedics took a 25-year-old, who survived, to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, according to police.

Bowman “did what he had to do to go home,” Robinson said.

He was shot twice in the “lower extremities” but expects to make a full recovery, Robinson said. He walked out of court wearing a catheter bag.

“He did everything right when it came to that confrontation,” Robinson said before asking the judge for a bond. “He will gladly take the stand and say he fired first.”

Prosecutor Catherine Dodson urged District Judge Michael Rosenblum to deny bond, saying Bowman is a threat to the community. Witnesses who were with Henderson’s crew told police Bowman flashed a gun earlier in the evening, escalating the situation, she said.

Police found a 9-mm handgun and eight 9-mm casings at the scene, Dodson said. They found a .40-caliber handgun in Bowman’s vehicle and 21 .40-caliber casings at the scene. Robinson said that proves a third shooter fired at his client, who had only a 14-round magazine and didn’t reload.

Another explanation, Dodson pointed out, is that Bowman fired all 21 shots.

Rosenblum gave Bowman, who doesn’t have a criminal record, a $75,000 bond. Bowman made bond and got out of jail Friday night.

Rosenblum ordered Bowman not to carry a gun if he does get out, not to drink alcohol and, unless he’s at work, not to leave his Suffolk home, where he lives with his girlfriend of five years and their 1½-year-old daughter. Bowman serves aboard the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, where he works on the flight deck.

Bowman’s boss, Chief Petty Officer Yendry Martinez, told Rosenblum that Bowman has a job waiting for him. He was scheduled to leave the Navy in January but won’t be discharged until his case is resolved. His other lawyer, Matthew Curcione, told the judge Bowman is in the final stages of applying to be a Portsmouth police officer.

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