(Updated at 6:15 p.m.) The Fairfax County police officer who allegedly fired the gunshot that killed Timothy McCree Johnson outside Tysons Corner Center last month will be fired, Chief Kevin Davis announced this afternoon (Thursday).
Davis didn’t identify the officer removed from duty, but the Washington Post reports that Sgt. Wesley Shifflett, a seven-year veteran of the Fairfax County Police Department, is believed to have fired the fatal shots.
The announcement was made at a 1 p.m. press conference, where the FCPD publicly released surveillance and body camera footage of the Feb. 22 encounter, which began with Johnson allegedly shoplifting a pair of sunglasses from Nordstrom and evolved into an extended foot chase.
“As a parent, my heart is still broken,” Melissa Johnson, Timothy’s mother, said. “I feel like I can just breathe a little bit lighter after hearing the announcement today, but we’re still waiting to see exactly what’s going to happen.”
The second officer involved — previously identified as eight-year veteran James Sadler — has been kept on modified restricted duty as a criminal investigation into the shooting continues.
Carl Crews, a lawyer representing the Johnson family, called Shifflett’s firing an “appropriate” move for an apparent violation of the FCPD’s use-of-force policy.
“But we’re not satisfied,” Crews told FFXnow. “The process needs to continue. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office needs to indict. There needs to be a charge against the officer, because a life was taken wrongly.”
The FCPD policy permits the use of deadly force against someone who’s fleeing if they’re suspected of committing a felony and their escape could pose a “significant threat” to others.
It’s unclear exactly where Johnson was in relation to the pursuing officers from the over eight-minute video compilation that the FCPD released. Shifflett can be heard saying that Johnson is going into the woods and yelling “get on the ground.”
He then appears to trip on the underbrush and says “Stop reaching.” The body camera’s lens gets briefly covered up as Shifflett reports “shots fired,” though the video needs to be slowed down and digitally enhanced to hear the three “pops” of gunshots.
Johnson did not have a weapon.
Police have confirmed that both Shifflett and Sadler fired their weapons, which means they both need to be held accountable, Crews argues.
“If [the other officer] was involved in the shooting, firing his weapon…he also violated the Fairfax County police officer policy for the use of deadly force, so he should be fired as well,” Crews said.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay confirmed that a notice of separation was served to one of the officers involved, expressing support for Davis’s decision in a lengthy statement that called the released video “disturbing.”
“I know Mr. Johnson’s family members are still grieving the death of their loved one, and I grieve for them,” McKay said. “Understandably they are also demanding answers. I hope the continued progress in this case will bring them a level of assurance that Fairfax County has heard them and is working transparently and with integrity.”
In a statement released prior to the press conference, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said he expects to make a decision on whether to pursue charges against the officers “in the coming weeks.”
Later today, the FCPD will release body camera footage of the death of Timothy McCree Johnson.
CA Descano's statement: pic.twitter.com/Gdk6sNwTei
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) March 23, 2023
“I have seen and am devastated by the body-worn camera footage showing yet another death of a Black man at the hands of police,” Descano said. “My heart grieves for the Johnsons, who lost a beloved family member over an incident involving a pair of sunglasses. Like many members of our community, I sincerely hope to see the day when police shootings are a thing of the past.”
His office said it had no further comment when asked about the FCPD’s anticipated firing of an officer.
After shootings by police officers spiked last year, the FCPD has agreed to undergo a review of all shootings since 2021 by the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum, which will also provide recommendations on a possible policy dictating when officers can engage in a foot pursuit.
Saying she’s thankful for the “love and support” her family has gotten from the community, Melissa Johnson expressed support for a foot pursuit policy and any other changes that could prevent future violence.
Clear policies and training that ensures those policies are followed would make officers safer as well, she noted.
“This is not against law enforcement at all. This is some officer that did not adhere to their policy, and unfortunately, my son is not here any longer,” she said. “But now that that has occurred, what can we do so that another parent does not have to endure what we’re having to endure right now?”
Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or Laura@GuidingYourMove.com. If…
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