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‘He’s Dead from Shoplifting’: Mother of Black Man Killed by Police After Allegedly Stealing Sunglasses Wants to Know Why Cops Shot Her Unarmed Son

The family of an unarmed Black man shot in the chest by police is demanding to know why he was killed, claiming he posed no threat.

Timothy Johnson, 37, was suspected of stealing sunglasses from a shopping mall in Tysons, Virginia, about 16 miles west of Washington, D.C.

“He’s dead from shoplifting. Not robbing someone with a gun, not burglarizing something with a gun. An unarmed shoplifter is dead now,” Johnson’s mother, Melissa Johnson, told The Washington Post.

According to police, Timothy Johnson was at the Tysons Corner Center shopping mall around 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 when he was reportedly “concealing designer sunglasses.” When Johnson left the store the anti-theft alarm was activated prompting him to run.

Once Timothy Johnson made it out of the store he ran through the parking garage, across the parking lot and into a heavily wooded area about a quarter mile wide.

An image of the wooded area Timothy Johnson fled into after being pursued by police on Feb. 22. (Photo: Facebook/DMV Noticias)

A Fairfax County uniformed police officer and a plainclothes officer pursued Timothy Johnson on foot. Police say they gave Johnson commands to get on the ground. It’s unclear the amount of time it took for police to give verbal commands when they fired gunshots. Exactly how many times police fired their guns is also under investigation.

Johnson was shot in the chest one time. Police say they rendered aid until EMS arrived. Johnson was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

“I don’t want to speculate why the officers discharged their firearms,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis told WJLA.

Davis said during a news conference the department is investigating if Johnson was armed.

“We don’t know what we don’t know right now. At some point in time in that chase, something happened that’s still under investigation that prompted our two Fairfax County police officers to discharge their firearms. That is what is under investigation,” Davis added.

Melissa Johnson, 56, claims her son was unarmed and did not pose a threat warranting deadly force.

“He never had a gun, a knife. He probably didn’t even have a cellphone,” Melissa Johnson said.

Fairfax County Police confirmed the officers involved are on restricted duty status. The body-worn camera footage will be released within 30 days. The department announced a criminal investigation into the use of force is being conducted and the officers involved will be publicly identified within 10 days.

“We know how much scrutiny these officer-involved shootings and the scrutiny that follows these officer-involved shootings, not just here but around the country. And it’s something we take very, very seriously,” Davis said.

Melissa Johnson and local civil rights groups have a heightened sense of suspicion as the investigation continues.

“What Chief Davis doesn’t say is significant,” Diana Burkley Alejandro with the ACLU People Power Fairfax said.

“He doesn’t say the officers even alleged the suspect fired or threatened to shoot. They are looking for a weapon, but if the suspect dropped a weapon, that doesn’t justify the force,” Alejandro added.

“Fairfax NAACP is saddened by another fatal police-involved shooting. We are following this case closely and are in touch with the family’s attorney. We implore FCPD to release the body-worn camera footage to the family as soon as possible,” the Fairfax NAACP said in a statement.

Police said during the news conference Timothy Johnson was “very well known to law enforcement…and had a significant violent criminal history.”

An image of Timothy Johnson’s family. (Photo: Facebook/Melissa Missy Johnson)

Melissa Johnson disputes the police’s characterization of her son.

“He’s not how the police try to portray him, as this evil criminal with this long history,” Melissa Johnson said.

“On Feb. 22 my 1st born Timothy aka Timmie gained his wings,” Melissa Johnson wrote on her Facebook page.

Timothy Johnson was a father of two and according to his mother was trying to turn his life around. He suffered from drug abuse issues and recently returned home from jail for violating his parole.

“I believe that he ran, and I believe that he was unarmed and I believe they shot and killed him. He’s a father. He’s a brother. He’s my son,” Melissa Johnson said.

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