Houston, TX – A Harris County grand jury has declined to charge the sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot 35-year-old Joshua Johnson after he approached him with a Glock-replica BB gun.
The incident occurred on the evening of April 22, 2020 when Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Tu Tran was doing an undercover stakeout on East Ritter Circle for a capital murder suspect, KTRK reported.
Deputy Tran was on assignment with the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force and was working in plain clothes in an unmarked police vehicle.
Family members have claimed Johnson was housesitting for a neighbor and saw the deputy’s strange car and approached it out of concern, KRIV reported.
The deputy said he was sitting in the car when Johnson approached and tapped on the driver’s window, KTRK reported.
Johnson was holding a cell phone with its flashlight on and what appeared to be a Glock handgun, according to Deputy Tran.
The deputy told Johnson to lower his gun, but the man raised it instead, KTRK reported.
Deputy Tran shot him.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said that the gun Johnson was holding turned out to be a Glock-replica BB gun, KTRK reported.
Prosecutors said that they took everything to a Harris County grand jury and tried to get charges against the deputy.
“As with all officer-involved shootings, we presented all of the evidence to a grand jury and gave parties the opportunity to come forward to testify,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “The grand jury handed down a no-bill, declining to charge anyone with a crime. We appreciate the grand jurors who considered this case, and we respect their decision.”
Ogg said the case had been separately reviewed by the Civil Rights Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which were on the scene of the shooting and brought in a ballistic expert to assist in their investigation, KTRK reported.
She stressed that the probe by her office’s Civil Rights Division was thorough and complete.
“Every bit of evidence was presented to grand jurors for their consideration,” Ogg said. “We left no stone unturned; a grand jury is the civilian review board of the justice system and they have the power of subpoena to review everything.”
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Michael Harrison presented the case to the grand jury, KTRK reported.
Harrison said it took several days to present the evidence to the very diverse grand jury.
Deputy Tran has been on paid administrative leave since the incident, which is protocol for all deputy-involved shootings, KTRK reported.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office Public Affairs Director Jason Spencer said that the grand jury’s decision not to charge Deputy Tran would start the next part of the review process.
“Now that a grand jury has issued a no-bill in this case, the sheriff’s office will move forward with an administrative review to determine whether all applicable policies were followed,” Spencer told KTRK.
Johnson’s family said they were heartbroken by the grand jury’s decision, KRIV reported.
“We’re just left here with those two words, ‘no bill’ and that is not right,'” family spokesperson James Hudson told reporters after the announcement.
The family is calling for full disclosure of all the evidence, KRIV reported.
“This was painful because there are still questions that haven’t been answered with reference to their son and what happened to him,” U.S. Representative Al Green (D-Texas) said. “This does not close the case for them. It’s not over for them because this is all that they know.”
“They don’t know what was said to the grand jury. They don’t know what the ballistics report revealed,” Green complained, according to KRIV.
The deputy was not wearing a bodycam the night of the incident because he was working undercover, KPRC reported.
Some of the incident was captured by security cameras on a nearby house.