A Virginia police officer was involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man who was accused of stealing sunglassess at the mall. The officer was terminated this week after the release of body-camera footage depicting the February shooting.
A press conference was held by the Fairfax County Police Department on Thursday, during which the video was displayed. The dismissal of the officer was also announced at this press conference.
The officer, later identified as Sgt. Wesley Shifflett, and another cop pursued 37-year-old Timothy Johnson, of Washington D.C., as he fled the Tysons Corner Shopping Center on February 22. The police had been alerted to a potential theft at the Nordstrom store in the mall by loss prevention officers.
The body-camera footage shows an officer chasing Johnson through a retail store, into a parking garage, and then into a wooded area.
Throughout the pursuit, officers can be heard repeatedly commanding Johnson to get on the ground and to stop reaching. The video features several gunshots, although Johnson’s position in the frame is unclear.
After being shot in the chest, Johnson received on-scene treatment before being transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities believe that Shifflett fired the shot that killed Johnson, while the second officer, Officer James Sadler, will remain on restricted duty pending the outcome of the ongoing criminal and administrative investigations.
Shifflett’s attorney, Caleb Kershner, intends to appeal the dismissal, asserting that his client’s use of force was justified, as Shifflett believed Johnson was reaching for a weapon. Police Chief Kevin Davis did not comment on whether Johnson was armed, but confirmed that two pairs of sunglasses were discovered at the scene.
Carl Crews, the attorney representing Johnson’s family, stated that the video offers no evidence to suggest that Johnson was armed or posed a threat to the officers’ lives.
The family described the incident as “an execution by a Fairfax County police officer.” Johnson, a father of two who enjoyed designing clothes, struggled with personal demons and mental health issues, according to a GoFundMe page launched by Michelle Leete, president of the NAACP Fairfax County Branch. The fundraiser aims to help Johnson’s family cover funeral costs and other expenses.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing.