Commonwealth v. Keith Samuel Rivera; Man Sentenced to 7 Years, 24 Months for Shooting Death of Friend

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Harvey L. Bryant, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Virginia Beach, announced today that Keith Samuel Rivera, 23 years old, previously residing in the 600 block of Ocean Lakes Drive in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was sentenced today by Circuit Court Judge Patricia L. West for charges of Involuntary Manslaughter, Receipt of a Stolen Firearm and two (2) counts of Providing a False Report to Police.  Judge West sentenced Rivera to 15 years and 24 months’ incarceration with eight (8) years suspended, leaving seven (7) years and 24 months to serve.  In December 2011, Judge West found Rivera guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter after a two-day trial, and he pled guilty to the additional charges.

The Commonwealth’s evidence proved that on August 11, 2010, Keith Samuel Rivera and the 17-year-old victim were together at Rivera’s home in the Ocean Lakes area of the City of Virginia Beach.  They were in the kitchen with two handguns, belonging to Rivera.  Rivera was using his cell phone while handling a .38 caliber handgun, and he accidentally fired it once, striking the victim in the chest.  As he called 911, Rivera ran outside and hid that gun as well as a .45 caliber in a neighbor’s bush. The victim died before rescue units arrived.  A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured Rivera, while on his phone, running to hide the guns.  Both guns were discovered the next morning by another neighbor. Investigation revealed that the bullet that struck the victim was fired from the .38 caliber.

Rivera told the 911 operator and responding officers that the shooting was a drive-by and the assailants fled in a white car.  He maintained this lie during his interview with homicide detectives. About a week later, Rivera was confronted with the still images taken from his neighbor’s surveillance camera.  He continued to maintain the lie about the drive-by shooting.  Eventually, Rivera admitted that he had accidentally shot the victim while playing with the gun.  The .45 caliber was later discovered to be a stolen firearm. Rivera admitted to investigators that he knew it was stolen, and that he had purchased it by providing marijuana to the seller.

The Virginia State Sentencing Guidelines recommended Rivera serve no more than three (3) years and three (3) months in prison.  When pronouncing the sentence, Judge West remarked that the guidelines were not sufficient in this case, and that if Rivera stayed in the home with the victim, the victim “wouldn’t lay dying alone.” 

Rivera’s prior record includes adjudications as a juvenile for charges of Possession of a Firearm by a Minor (2 counts), Carrying a Concealed Weapon, and Petit Larceny.


Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott M. Lang and Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kari A. Kopnicky prosecuted the case. Please contact Macie Pridgen if additional information is desired.