Fairfax County, VA – A Virginia grand jury on Monday declined to indict a now-former Fairfax County police sergeant who fatally shot an unarmed shoplifting suspect at a mall in February.
The incident occurred on Feb. 22 after security guards reported to police that 37-year-old Timothy Johnson had shoplifted sunglasses in the Nordstroms department store in Tysons Corner Center, WTTG reported.
Fairfax County police officers spotted Johnson when he set off an anti-theft alarm as he was leaving the store, CNN reported.
Bodycam footage of the incident showed officers chased the suspect through the shopping mall and into an attached parking garage.
The foot pursuit continued into a grassy, wooded area of the mall property as officers shouted commands at the suspect to stop, WTTG reported.
“Get on the ground,” one of the officers yelled in the video and then two gunshots were heard.
“Stop reaching,” another officer told Johnson in the video.
Then another shot was fired, WTTG reported.
“Shots fired, shots fired,” an officer reported to the dispatcher and then the video showed police began performing lifesaving measures on the wounded suspect.
Bodycam released from fatal OIS involving suspect who stope sunglasses. pic.twitter.com/GrGXHyLq2e
— Shane B. Murphy (@shanermurph) March 23, 2023
Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis fired Fairfax County Police Sergeant Wesley Shifflett in March and launched a criminal investigation into the officer-involved shooting, CNN reported.
Sgt. Shifflett has been identified as the officer who shot Johnson, WTTG reported.
Chief Davis said Sgt. Shifflett’s actions did not meet the expectations of the police department or comport with the department’s use of force policies.
An investigation was conducted and the Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s Office took the evidence before a grand jury panel in April seeking an indictment, WTTG.
But on April 17, the Virginia grand jury declined to indict the former police sergeant for his actions that day.
Shifflett’s defense attorney, Caleb Kershner, praised the grand jury’s decision not to criminally charge his client, the Associated Press reported.
“The grand jury has seen this case for exactly what it is,” Kershner told reporters.
Kershner called Johnson’s death a “tragedy” said the police sergeant had responded reasonably when he thought he the suspect reaching for a gun in his waistband, the Associated Press reported.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano condemned the decision and said he was still considering options for prosecuting the former law enforcement official, WTTG reported.
“Earlier this morning I sat with Timothy Johnson’s family and told them I expected an indictment to come today in the killing of their son, 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,” Descano said in a statement.
“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,” the prosecutor continued. “In light of this outcome, I am evaluating all options on the path forward and continue to grieve Timothy’s loss.”
As you may have noticed, we did not proceed with our previously announced 12:00pm press conference to discuss the Timothy Johnson case.
Attached is a statement from Commonwealth's Attorney Descano. pic.twitter.com/A7VkGEekNk
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) April 17, 2023
But the attorney for the former Sgt. Shifflett said the commonwealth’s attorney should give up on trying to prosecute a justified shooting, CNN reported.
“To issue a reindictment would have a chilling effect on law enforcement,” Kershner said.