An ex-Virginia police officer will not go to trial for shooting an unarmed shoplifter at a shopping mall.
The prosecution was not allowed to review what authorities presented before the grand jury, leaving some to speculate the police created a scenario to support that the officer followed use-of-force protocols when he fatally shot Timothy McCree Johnson.
The grand jury said there was simply not enough probable cause to indict the former officer.
Fairfax County Commonwealth attorney Steve Descano called Johnson’s family and told them he expected to go to trial and prosecute Wesley Shifflett, a former Fairfax County, Virginia, police officer, on manslaughter charges.
However, he was wrong. The grand jury failed to indict Shifflett for shooting Johnson outside Tysons Corner Center, 16 miles west of Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22. The 37-year-old was suspected of stealing a pair of sunglasses.
Related: ‘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
A preliminary review of the police-involved killing showed that Shifflett, a former sergeant, and police officer first class James Sadler both “discharged their firearms” collectively three times.
Officer bodycam footage shows a chase and one officer telling Johnson to “Get on the ground” and another saying “Stop reaching.”
Fairfax County police chief Kevin Davis said the fatal shot was fired by Shifflett and that Johnson was indeed unarmed. Authorities only recovered two pairs of sunglasses, but no handgun, at the scene of the crime.
At the time, Davis called it “a failure to live up to the expectations of our agency, in particular use of force policies.”
According to The Washington Post, Davis was one of the first to get the news that Shifflett would not be indicted and shared it with the department via email.
While he did not go into details about the presentation and proceeding, he told members of his force he respected the criminal justice system and was committed to ensuring “fair, impartial and respectful treatment for everyone.”
Descano originally believed the case against the seven-year department veteran would be a no-brainer and set up a press conference on Monday, April 17 at noon.
The news conference was then delayed after the grand jury’s decision was met. Eventually, Descano had to cancel because he had not yet figured out “all options on the path forward.”
The prosecutor said there is no way for him to assess why the grand jurors made their decision.
“Since, by law, no prosecutors were permitted to be present in the room when the investigating officers made their presentation to the grand jury, I can’t say for sure what information was conveyed to the grand jurors,” Descano said.
His thoughts went to Johnson’s family, whom he told to expect promising news, according to KPLC TV.
“So, I can only imagine their pain and shock when they received the news that the officer — who shot and killed their unarmed son — was not indicted,” said Descano, who ran on the platform of holding police accountable for their actions.
Melissa Johnson, the mother of the deceased said to WUSA 9 she feels the decision is “disheartening.”
“I feel almost like I am getting that 1 a.m. phone call all over again,” said Johnson.
The Johnson family’s lawyer, Carl Crews, noted it was rare for a grand jury not to indict on issues like this. He believed the police broke down the evidence for the jurors and presented a bias in protecting the other officer.
“We have to figure out a way to crush the blue wall of silence,” Crews said before suggesting the police “tanked” the presentation and “turned the grand jury away from returning an indictment” against Shifflett.
An attorney representing Shifflett, Caleb Kershner, has questioned why Crews made statements like that, particularly because he was not in the proceedings.
“I convey my greatest empathy and sympathy to the Johnson family,” Kershner said. “I think everyone does.”
He added, “But there has never been a question in my mind my client acted according to his training and according to the law.”
Kershner said his client feared for his safety because he believed he saw Johnson reaching for what he erroneously thought was a gun.
The lawyer says Shifflett is relieved by the decision.
The family stands on the belief that Johnson was wrongfully killed.
But his mother said, “We are not quitting. We are not allowing this to affect the continuation of what this is: #JusticeforTimothy. We will keep going.”
One thought on “Attorney Blames ‘Blue Wall of Silence’ for Grand Jury’s Failure to File Charges Against Virginia Cop Who Killed Unarmed Black Man Accused of Stealing Sunglasses”
Isn’t that the Great “Cover All Answer from Law Enforcement “??? ” Feared for My Safety because I thought that He was Armed”???? Since “Common Sense Isn’t being deployed and a Biased Already Exists for People of Color and Minorities and Native Americans, I stands to reason that Qualified Immunity will be employed in these situations “!