Police face protests over shooting death

A state trooper stands along the intersection of Braddock and Piccadilly streets in Winchester on Tuesday as protesters file by. Rich Cooley/Daily

View video of the march in Winchester: https://youtu.be/utx4IUoHCjs

WINCHESTER – The Virginia State Police on Tuesday continued to treat the shooting death of a 20-year Winchester man as a suicide, despite beliefs in some parts of the community that he died as a result of gunfire from Winchester police.

Winchester city officials reported in a written statement that the victim, D’Londre Minifield, 20, had been wanted in Petersburg since Sept. 6 for two counts of felony robbery with a gun, two unspecified felony weapons charges and misdemeanor assault.

For the second day in a row, a group of protesters, mostly in their teens and 20s, gathered across the street from the police station and set off on a peaceful early evening march through downtown. The crowd of 60 or so was smaller than the 100 that police estimated had assembled the night before. They chanted “justice for Dre,” and held signs accusing police of unnecessary violence toward blacks in Winchester and elsewhere.

No arrests were reported from Monday night’s protest.

Cianna Minifield, 23, of Winchester, left, sheds tears on March 1 as she walks beside her mother Jacqueline Minifield, whose son D'Londre Minifield, 20, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The pair led the march with about 60 protesters down Piccadilly Street in Winchester in response to D'Londre Minifield's death. Rich Cooley/Daily

Joshua King, 26, of Winchester, said Minifield’s death was another example of excessive police force directed at blacks in the city.

“There’s a history of this kind of thing happening in Winchester,” King said, adding that police had harassed him several times for no obvious reason.

Virginia State Police are conducting an investigation into the shooting at the request of Winchester police, a common procedure after someone dies during an encounter with local police. Police officials say more than five years have passed since the last time such an investigation was conducted.

State police said in a written statement that they and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner “continue to investigate the case as a suicide.”

Authorities say Minifield died Sunday afternoon while police were chasing him on foot. State police have stated that Winchester police officers were dispatched to the 2200 block of Roosevelt Boulevard where they found Minifield and one other male. Minifield fled on foot, then stopped and fired a gunshot into himself, state police said.

Key Ona’ Vanegas, 8, of Winchester, sits beside a sign in Timbrook Park before protesters walk the streets of Winchester on Tuesday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

No Winchester officer fired a gun during the incident, state police said. No officers have been placed on administrative leave as a result of Minifield’s death.

The incident has thrust Winchester into the lengthening list of controversies involving blacks who have died during interactions with police. Many of the deaths have resulted from gunfire but others, such as the death of Freddie Gray while he was being transported in a Baltimore police van, have involved other causes.

Two men attending Tuesday’s protest helped devise a route for marchers to follow and guided them along.

Elyus Wallace, 34, and Aaron Summers, 38, urged those assembled to avoid the provocations and lawbreaking that marred protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore in the aftermath of deadly confrontations between police and black individuals.

“We’re better than this. This is Winchester,” Wallace said in an interview.

Nakea Carter, of Winchester, sheds a tear as protesters assemble at Timbrook Park in Winchester on Tuesday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

Police closed off parts of Woodstock Lane, Piccadilly Street, National Avenue, North Camaron Street, Kent Street, East Lane and Boscawan Street beginning at 3:45 p.m.

Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher met with Wallace and other protesters as they gathered in Timbrook Park. Sanzenbacher asked them about their plans and intentions before returning to the police station.

“We’re not trying to spy on you,” Sanzenbacher told Wallace. “We just want to know what’s going on.”

The state police and Frederick County Sheriff’s Office joined the city police in patrolling the downtown area during the march.

Minifield’s mother, Jacqueline, led the protesters along part of their route.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

Joshua King, 26, of Winchester, holds a sign as protesters assemble at Timbrook Park before walking the streets of Winchester on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily