As a steady drizzle of rain provided an appropriately somber atmosphere, the parents of Timothy McCree Johnson and their supporters gathered in front of the Fairfax County Government Center on Friday (March 3) to call for justice after his recent death in a police shooting outside Tysons Corner Center.
With support from the Fairfax County NAACP, top among the family’s demands are the continued call for an independent investigation of the shooting and the prompt release of body-worn camera footage captured by the two police officers who fired their guns.
The Fairfax County Police Department maintains that the footage will be made public within 30 days of the shooting, in accordance with its information release policy, but Johnson’s mother, Melissa Johnson, questioned why she and her family needs to wait that long to see what happened to her son.
“The Johnson family needs to see the unedited footage of the body-worn cameras, and they need to see it now,” said Carl Crews, an attorney for the family. “They need to know what the officer perceived that he thought was a threat to his life from Timothy, that was running away from him. The longer it takes for us, for the Johnson family to see the footage, the more time we will have to simply speculate as to what happened.”
A 37-year-old D.C. resident, Johnson was shot once in the chest around 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 by officers who pursued him after he was allegedly seen trying to shoplift a pair of sunglasses from Nordstorm.
The FCPD identified the officers involved as Sgt. Wesley Shifflett, a 7-year veteran of the department, and Police Officer First Class James Sadler, an 8-year veteran, on March 4 — exactly 10 days after the shooting, as required by its policy.
Shifflett and Sadler were assigned to the Tysons Urban Team, a 12-officer unit based in Tysons Corner Center that was introduced in 2013. They both have certificates of valor from the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which honored Shifflett in 2020 and Sadler in 2018.
They’re currently on restricted duty status as criminal and administrative investigations into Johnson’s shooting continue.
The identification of the officers hasn’t changed the Johnson family’s desire to see the body camera video or have the shooting investigated by an entity outside the police department, Crews told FFXnow.
The FCPD announced on Friday that the D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) will examine officer-involved shootings since 2021, but the review will focus on overall trends, rather than specific incidents.
“I don’t have a comment about that,” Melissa Johnson said when asked about the PERF review. “Let the police take care of what they need to do to earn public trust or to police themselves.”
Fairfax County NAACP President Michelle Leete and Rev. Dr. Vernon Walton, a senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Vienna, placed Johnson among other victims of police violence, invoking names like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Natasha McKenna, who died after being restrained and shocked by Fairfax County sheriff’s deputies in 2015.
Police still too often use deadly force against Black and brown individuals in particular, despite efforts to train officers to deescalate situations and widespread protests that have increased awareness of racism in the justice system, they said.
“I don’t want to be here, but Tim Johnson’s life meant more than an inanimate object,” Leete said.
Melissa Johnson expressed appreciation for the activists and other community members who came to the vigil.
She said she felt it was important to “return to the atmosphere in which Timothy took his last breath.” While her son had struggles in the past, including a conviction on felony gun charges, none of that is related to or justifies the police shooting and killing him, she said.
“Timothy is loved, Timothy is beloved, and I really wanted to bring humanness, that this is not a check-the-box template of what we do when such tragedies happen,” Melissa Johnson said. “This was my son, and this is a case-by-case basis, so we’re going to stand patiently and we’re going to wait to see what happens, but we’re watching.”
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