‘So He Could Control the Process’: A Virginia Attorney Is Furious After a Special Grand Jury Is Assembled And Indicts Ex White Cop Who Shot Unarmed Black Man Accused of Shoplifting

An ex-Fairfax County, Virginia, police officer faces indictment for the fatal shooting of an unarmed suspect accused of shoplifting at the Tyson Corner Center in shopping center in February 2023. A special grand jury determined that there was sufficient evidence to charge the officer with murder and the reckless discharge of a weapon.

According to court records, while on patrol at the mall, Wesley Shifflett and a fellow officer encountered Timothy McCree Johnson, 37, as he was being pursued by a security guard on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Nordstrom department store.

Virginia Cop fired over Black Man's Death
Fairfax County police Chief Kevin Davis, left, announces the termination of the sergeant who shot Timothy Johnson, right. (Photos: WUSA9/ YouTube screenshot/ Facebook/Melissa Missy Johnson)

Both officers shot at Johnson, but a police investigation revealed it was Shifflett’s bullet that ended the Black man’s life.

The man’s mother could not believe that her son’s life was ended as a consequence of such a petty theft.

“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, said, adding that they also believe he did not pose a threat to the officers.

Weeks after the shooting, Police Chief Kevin Davis fired Shifflett because he believed based on video the former officer exhibited “a failure to live up to the expectations of our agency, in particular use of force policies.”

The chief said he viewed a poorly lit two-minute video that gave him a glimpse of what happened that night. In a slowed-down version, it appears that two shots were fired before the officer gave the command to “get on the ground.”

After Shifflett shot Johnson, bodycam captures him telling his colleague that the man was “continually reaching in his waistband” and that when he asked him to “let me see your hands” he did not comply. However, that command is not audible on the video.

Watch the full bodycam footage here.

Also, at no point did the police ever find the alleged weapon.

“More often than not the police body camera footage speaks for itself. This time, it does not,” the chief said, according to The Associated Press.

Davis said he needed more information to evaluate if the officers’ actions were appropriate.

Earlier this year, a grand jury chose not to charge Shifflett for Johnson’s death.

However, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano was not satisfied with the decision and established a special grand jury to conduct a fresh investigation. He cited Virginia law that affords him more oversight in this process.

Descano believes that the “Blue Wall of Silence” was the reason why the jury decided not to indict him. Further, he added, during the proceeding where Shifflett was let off, he was not permitted to be present during the cop’s testimonies due to Virginia law.

“The work of public safety includes charging officers for crimes when such actions are legally warranted,” Descano said. “Our nation’s justice system has historically been stacked in favor of protecting powerful institutions and individuals, and it is no small feat that the grand jurors returned a true bill after reviewing this matter.”

Not everyone supported Descano’s decision to do a special grand jury.

Caleb Kershner, Shifflett’s attorney, argued that Descano should have honored the first grand jury’s choice to reject an indictment.

“That wasn’t good enough for this commonwealth’s attorney. He had to assemble a special grand jury so he could control the process,” Kershner wrote.

He continued, “Few people understand what it’s like to have a gun pulled on you and regularly being put in risk of death. These men and women in uniform serve by putting their lives on the line every day.”

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