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Fairfax NAACP “Shocked and Deeply Saddened by the Unnecessary Brutal Slaying of a Black Citizen, Mr. Timothy Johnson, 37, by the Fairfax County Police Department”

"The Branch Demands an Independent Investigation Into the Death of Mr. Johnson"

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From the Fairfax NAACP:

Fairfax County NAACP Press Statement on Unnecessary Killing of Unarmed Black Man Fleeing Police at Tysons Corner Shopping Center on Wednesday Evening, February 22, 2023.

The Fairfax County NAACP is Shocked and Deeply Saddened by the Unnecessary Brutal Slaying of a Black Citizen, Mr. Timothy Johnson, 37, by the Fairfax County Police Department. The Alarming Rise in “Officer-Involved Shootings” Throughout Fairfax County—Six in 2022 Compared to One the Prior Year (as Reported on the Fairfax County Website)—is Deeply Troubling.

The Branch Demands an Independent Investigation Into the Death of Mr. Johnson, an Immediate Release of Camera Footage, the Identity of the Officers Involved (and Their Complaint History) and a Review of the Rise in Officer-Involved Shootings. The Branch also Insists that a Foot Pursuit Policy be Developed and Enacted Immediately.

Tysons, Va. (Feb. 27, 2023) — On February 22, 2023, another unarmed Black man, Timothy Johnson, was shot and killed by two Fairfax County police officers after allegedly stealing some sunglasses from a Tysons Corner department store. Mr. Johnson was chased through a parking garage, a parking lot, and into a wooded area where he was killed by a bullet wound to the chest. The family and the community have many questions about how suspicion of a non-violent act turns into a foot chase, the discharge of a firearm by police, and another senseless death.

The Fairfax County Police Department’s (FCPD) own Use of Force Policy makes clear that a fleeing suspect who is not a danger to the police or general public is not cause for discharge of their firearm. Under FCPD’s Use of Force policy, officers are not permitted to use deadly force on a fleeing offender without (1) “probable cause to believe the individual committed a felony involving violence,” (2) exhausting “all other means to effect an arrest,” and (3) the alleged offender’s escape “poses a significant threat of serious injury or death to the officer or others.” Suspicion of stealing a few pairs of sunglasses without the use or possession of a weapon do not satisfy any—much less all—of these requirements. Whether or not Mr. Johnson was guilty of a crime, he had the right to due process, and for the sanctity of his life to be respected by police officers to the maximum extent possible.

“The tragic killing of Mr. Johnson reminds us once again how unjust America’s policing truly is. The facts as we know them signal that the officers’ actions were entirely out of step with FCPD’s Use of Force policy,” said Michelle Leete, Fairfax County NAACP President

Fairfax County NAACP is disappointed that the FCPD has failed to date to produce substantive information about this fatal shooting, nor has it produced any information about the disciplinary records of the veteran police officers involved in this incident. The FCPD may release body-worn camera footage, and any other footage from cameras capturing the events, before 30 days after an event. To date, the FCPD has refused to release any camera footage thus raising suspicions that this evidence will be used selectively to support the officers involved in the shooting. Also unclear is the protocol for how officer-involved shootings are handled, specifically how much time elapses after shootings before officers are first questioned and the involvement of police unions during the investigations and adjudications of an officer-involved shooting.

FCPD Chief Kevin Davis was quick to point out Mr. Johnson’s alleged “violent history” and past offenses. Regardless of Mr. Johnson’s history, the facts revealed to date show that he was unarmed and suspected to be in possession of stolen sunglasses when fatally shot by officers. This attempt to immediately smear the victim is ironic considering Chief Davis himself has a violent history, with two citizens having won civil lawsuits against Davis in use-of-force cases. When Fairfax County NAACP vociferously opposed the selection of Kevin Davis as Chief of Police, the branch cited his violent history and his unsuccessful tenure as Chief of Police in Baltimore, Maryland. Yet the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, over opposition from many different groups and individuals in the community, still selected him. They are as responsible as Chief Davis is for the public safety crisis we are currently facing.

The University of Texas at San Antonio published a study about the use of force in Fairfax County. They analyzed 1,360 use-of-force cases between 2016 and 2018. The report included many recommendations including the adoption of a Foot Pursuit Policy. FCPD still has no such policy. The troubling increase in officer-involved shootings (OIS) during this last year needs to be thoroughly analyzed. From 2013 through 2021, there were zero or one OIS most years—with two OIS during 2014 and 2020, and three OIS in 2012. During 2022, there were six OIS, with two fatalities, and now Mr. Johnson is dead at the beginning of 2023. The Fairfax County NAACP and the community want to know what has been done to analyze and address the fact that 2022 saw more than three times the average number of OIS from 2013 to 2021?

The Fairfax County NAACP demands an independent, transparent and comprehensive investigation into the death of Mr. Johnson. They also demand an immediate release of the unedited camera footage, the identities of the officers involved, the officers’ complaint history, and the medical examiner’s report. The branch further demands a review of the OIS in 2022 and that a Foot Pursuit Policy be developed and enacted immediately.

 

The Johnson Family has set-up a Go Fund Me to assist with the funeral costs and provide some financial support to the two children Mr. Johnson leaves behind.

About Fairfax County NAACP

The Fairfax County NAACP is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose mission is to achieve equity, political rights, and social inclusion by advancing policies and practices that expand human and civil rights, eliminate discrimination, and accelerate the well being, educational and economic security of Black people and all people of color. More information can be found at fairfaxnaacp.org.

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