THE COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
STEPHEN R. McCULLOUGH JUSTICE.
Lee Jones challenges his conviction for shooting at an
occupied vehicle under Code § 18.2-154. He argues that,
to secure a conviction under this statute, the prosecution
must prove that the shooter was positioned outside of the
occupied vehicle. Because in the incident giving rise to the
present charges, Jones was located inside the vehicle at the
time he fired multiple shots, he urges us to vacate his
conviction. We conclude that the plain language of the
statute does not require the prosecution to prove that the
shooter was located outside of the vehicle when he fired
shots at an occupied vehicle. Consequently, we affirm the
judgment of the Court of Appeals upholding this conviction.
accompanied by Antoine Myler, sought to purchase some pills,
evidently pain medications, from Jabari Lee. Jones and Myler
climbed into Lee's vehicle. While inside the vehicle,
Jones shot Lee. Lee was struck several times and died of his
gunshot wounds. Police recovered bullets from the window
frame of one of the doors and from the top center console of
was charged with, among other things, maliciously shooting at
an occupied vehicle in violation of Code § 18.2-154.
Counsel moved to strike the charge of shooting at an occupied
vehicle. The trial court denied that motion. In a published
opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed appellant's
conviction for shooting at an occupied vehicle, Jones v.
Commonwealth, 68 Va.App. 304 (2017), and this appeal
§ 18.2-154 provides in relevant part that "[a]ny
person who maliciously shoots at . . . any motor vehicle . .
. when occupied by one or more persons, whereby the life of
any person . . . in such motor vehicle . . . may be put in
peril, is guilty of a Class 4 felony." "Statutory
interpretation presents a pure question of law and is
accordingly subject to de novo review by this Court."
Washington v. Commonwealth, 272 Va. 449, 455 (2006).
argues that this statute essentially criminalizes the act of
"shooting into an occupied vehicle" and
that "one cannot violate this statute unless he is
aiming in the direction of the car while standing outside
of said car." Appellant's Br. at 6 (emphasis in
original). He also points to the existence of Code §
18.2-286.1, which makes it a felony to discharge a weapon
while seated in a vehicle. In his view, allowing a conviction
for shooting at an occupied vehicle when the shooter is
located inside the vehicle would render Code §
must presume that the General Assembly chose, with care, the
words that appear in a statute, and must apply the statute in
a manner faithful to that choice." Johnson v.
Commonwealth, 292 Va. 738, 742 (2016). "When the
language of a statute is plain and unambiguous, we are bound
by the plain meaning of that statutory language."
Alston v. Commonwealth, 274 Va. 759, 769 (2007). The
word "at" is straightforward enough as it is used
in this statute. In this context, "at" is
"used as a function word to indicate that which is the
goal of an action or that toward which an action or motion is
directed <aimed the arrow ⁓ the target>."
Webster's Third New International Dictionary 136 (1993).
"Nothing in the language of this statute is inherently
difficult to comprehend, of doubtful import, or lacking in
clarity and definiteness. Accordingly, it is not necessary to
look beyond the plain language of the statute to ascertain
its underlying legislative intent." Harrison &
Bates, Inc. v. Featherstone Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 253
Va. 364, 369 (1997).
statute contains no requirement that the shooter be located
outside of the vehicle. When a shooter who is inside the
vehicle discharges his weapon so as to strike the occupied
vehicle, he is, within the literal language of the statute,
shooting at an occupied vehicle. The General Assembly could
have prohibited, for example, shooting "into" an
occupied vehicle. It did not. "This Court may not
construe the plain language of a statute 'in a manner
that amounts to holding that the General Assembly meant to
add a requirement to the statute that it did not actually
express.'" Commonwealth v. Amos, 287 Va.
301, 307 (2014) (quoting Vaughn, Inc. v. Beck, 262
Va. 673, 679 (2001)). The location of the shooter is not an
element of the offense under this statute. Whether the
shooter is outside or inside the car, the discharge of a
firearm at an occupied vehicle presents a significant danger
of grave harm or death to the occupants of the vehicle.
Bullets can unpredictably ricochet off one of the
vehicle's surfaces and strike an occupant. Accordingly,
we reject the argument that a shooter must be positioned
outside of the vehicle to be convicted of shooting
"at" an occupied vehicle under Code §
argues that such a construction of Code § 18.2-154 would
render a different statute, Code § 18.2-286.1,
"duplicative and superfluous." We disagree.
§ 18.2-286.1 provides that "[a]ny person who, while
in or on a motor vehicle, intentionally discharges a firearm
so as to create the risk of injury or death to another person
or thereby cause another person to have a reasonable
apprehension of injury or death shall be guilty of a Class 5
the existence of a similar but not identical statute does not
alter our obligation to construe the applicable statute
according to its plain language. Second, although there is
some overlap between the conduct prohibited by the two
statutes, they are textually and conceptually different.
Textually, the lives endangered under Code § 18.2-154
must be those in the motor vehicle. Code § 18.2-286.1
does not contain this restriction, although, practically
speaking, most of the lives endangered will be those located
outside of the vehicle. Furthermore, Code § 18.2-154
requires malice. Code § 18.2-286.1 does not contain this
requirement. In addition, the punishment for the two offenses
is different. From a conceptual standpoint, as the Court of
Appeals aptly noted, "Code § 18.2-154 focuses on
the direction of the shot, while Code § 18.2-286.1
focuses on the location of the shooter." Jones,
68 Va.App. at 312. More broadly, "the ...