NORFOLK, Va. (WRIC)—A Varina High School graduate and student at Old Dominion University was beaten to death in Norfolk early Sunday morning.
Paul Johnson, 20, was walking along the 1000 block of West 48th Street around 1 a.m. on Feb. 23 when he was struck in the head by a suspect. He was transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m.
Johnson was a sophomore at ODU who graduated from Henrico County's Varina High School in 2012. He was one of six brothers. Those who grew up with him in Richmond say they can't believe he's gone.
"I'm still in shock, honestly," said Patrick Zampetti, a friend of Johnson's. "I'm too angry to be sad about it right now."
Johnson was majoring in mathematics.
"He was a very smart person—very good at math and science," Zampetti said.
Zampetti met Johnson at George H. Moody Middle School in Henrico. He says his friend was easygoing and always in a good mood.
"There was just no reason for this to happen. Out of all people, there's no reason it should've happened to him," Zampetti said. "I don't think Paul disliked anybody. He would always try to find a way to be on good terms with everybody he met. He had a very strong character. Paul was gonna just be Paul. He wouldn't change himself for people; it was kind of admirable."
ODU President John R. Broderick issued a statement on Sunday regarding Johnson's passing:
"Dear Members of the Campus Community,
It is with great sadness that I update you on the ODU Safety Timely Warning that was sent early this morning. The injured student, Paul Johnson, a sophomore majoring in mathematics, passed away this afternoon. We are all outraged by this senseless tragedy and I know you join me in sending your heartfelt condolences to Paul's family and friends.
The Norfolk Police are investigating Paul's death, and Old Dominion University and its Police Department have pledged every available resource to assist them. Earlier today, I and members of the university administration met with the Norfolk City Manager and Chief of Police, who promised to devote additional police resources to this investigation and to engage in further dialogue with the university community about safety issues and concerns.
We are dedicated to providing support to Paul's friends and classmates. Old Dominion's Counseling Center professionals are available for students, faculty, and staff who are having difficulty. Please call them at 757-683-4401. Remember to also look after your friends and colleagues and reach out to them if they appear to need help.
The Old Dominion community has always been one of compassion and solidarity. Now more than ever, those traits that keep our community strong will help to see us through."
The Norfolk Police Department and ODU Police Department are investigating the case and have secured two warrants in connection with Johnson's death. David William Grimm Jr., 21, is to be charged with second-degree murder and Christopher Chase Johnson, 20, is to be charged with misdemeanor assault. Both are on the run.
Anyone with information about Paul Johnson's murder is asked to contact the Norfolk Police Department Homicide Section at 757-664-7023, the Norfolk Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP or the ODU Police Department at 757-683-3000.
At this time, ABC 8 News is respecting the Johnson family's request not to air a photo of their deceased son.
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