Charges Dropped Against Man Accused of Shooting at Chicho’s Backstage

Lack of witness protection funding is a potential factor


In March, 2022, Virginian-Pilot Reporter Sierra Jenkins, 25 along with Devon Harris, 25, and Marquel Andrews, 24, were fatally shot in front of Chicho’s Backstage in Downtown Norfolk. 


Jenkins worked for The Pilot as an Education reporter and did some coverage on CNU. One of her last pieces in Feb., 2022, covered University President Paul Trible being honored by the General Assembly. 


The man accused of the triple homicide was Antoine M. Legrande Jr. However, on Tuesday Nov. 1, 2022, the charges against Legrande were dropped after two witnesses, for unknown reasons, failed to appear in court. Without the two witnesses, there was not enough evidence to convict Legrande. 


Legrande’s lawyer, Eric Korslund, told WTKR, “‘Essentially, we expect the worst but we hope for the best and this is what we hoped for,’  said Korslund. ‘He’s very, very happy about it and his family is too.’”


Lengarde has been released from jail and will remain so, unless more evidence is found to convict him. Charges can be brought back if prosecutors are able to provide more evidence and witnesses.  


The Virginian-Pilot reported that this is not the first time that Norfolk witnesses have failed to appear in court, and that it could have something to do with Virginia’s Witness Protection Program or a lack thereof. Although Virginia established a Witness Protection Program in Apr. of 1994, it has never been funded, making it almost completely unusable.


In Oct., 2022, Portsmouth Attorney Stephanie Morales spoke to 13 News Now about the need to fund this program statewide. 


“‘People who are witnesses and in fear for their safety – that fear is real,’ Morales said. ‘We need to be able to place resources behind protecting the members of our community when they come forward.’”


She also said, “We have to as government officials, be committed to keeping the members of our community safe when they do come forward and the funding for the witness protection program will be a step in the right direction in being able to do that.”


Later in the month, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced the Bold Blue Line plan. Along with funding of law enforcement recruitment nationwide, higher education initiatives, and training and equipment for police, it will hopefully also fund the Witness Protection Program. 


Attorney General Jason Miyares is working with legislators on this issue and WTKR reports that $5 million have been allocated for his plan, known as Operation Ceasefire


He previously spoke at Liberty University about this three-part initiative, “One of it is intervention; we are going to push for different intervention programs for young people, so they know not to join gang activity. It’s also prosecution. If you are a repeat violent offender using a gun to commission a felony, we are going to be prosecuting you to the fullest extent of the law. The last is protection, and this has set up a victim witness protection fund. Whether it’s traveling or lodging, so that they can feel comfortable coming forward” (WDBJ).