Titusville, FL – A Titusville police officer has been arrested on a manslaughter charge in connection with the fatal officer-involved shooting of a suspect late last year.
The incident occurred as Titusville Police Officer Joshua Payne, 29, was responding to a report of a woman being violently assaulted on South Deleon Avenue on Dec. 26, 2021, WESH reported.
Officer Payne arrived at the scene and spotted a man who matched the suspect’s description fleeing the area on foot, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FLDE) said in a press release on June 1.
The fleeing suspect was later identified as 40-year-old James Lowery, Spectrum News 13 reported.
Officer Payne chased after him, firing his Taser multiple times to no avail, according to police.
Lowery then allegedly climbed over a fence and threw an object over the other side as Officer Payne drew his duty weapon and repeatedly ordered the suspect to stop, Spectrum News 13 reported.
Lowery ignored him and made his way to the opposite side of the fence.
The FLDE said Officer Payne, who was holding both his Taser and his duty weapon, then fired both weapons simultaneously, striking the suspect in the back of his head, Spectrum News 13 reported.
Lowery died at the scene.
Investigators did not find any weapons on or near his body, according to the FDLE.
Police said the object Lowery threw turned out to be a “small bag of drugs,” WFTV reported.
The FDLE handled the investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting and submitted its findings to prosecutors on May 6.
Officer Payne was ultimately charged with manslaughter in connection with Lowery’s death, Spectrum News 13 reported.
He turned himself in at the Brevard County Jail on June 1 and was later released on $15,000 bond.
Officer Payne was placed on unpaid leave from the Titusville Police Department (TPD) pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Spectrum News 13 reported.
The officer has pleaded not guilty.
He has been with the TPD since July of 2020, Space Coast Daily reported.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Lowery’s mother, Linda Johnson, argued that Lowery had nothing to do with the domestic violence incident that led Officer Payne to respond to the area in the first place, WESH reported.
Investigators have confirmed that Lowery was not involved in the original call for service, WFTV reported.
“James Lowery wasn’t even the person 911 was called on,” Crump told reporters. “They shot the wrong black man.”
Crump did not explain why Lowery ran from the officer.
Attorney Natalie Jackson said allegations that there was a fight between Lowery and Officer Payne was a lie, WESH reported.
“That has been proven false,” Jackson said.
“A shot to the back of the head – nothing else needs to be said. That is unjustified,” Crump added. “You can’t justify shooting a man in the back of the head as he is running away from you.”
Police officers are generally allowed to shoot fleeing suspects when there is probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of serious injury or death to others if they are able to escape, or if the suspect reasonably appears to present an immediate threat to the life of the officers or others.
Johnson said Lowery turned 40 on Dec. 22, 2021, and that they spent the day before Christmas together, WESH reported.
“I didn’t get to see him no more after that,” she told the news outlet.
Crump has demanded police release bodycam footage of the incident and that Officer Payne be held responsible for Lowery’s death.
“Officer Payne targeted, stalked, tased, and shot James in the back of the head despite the fact that he wasn’t involved in the case that was being investigated, wasn’t armed, and was in no way threatening the officer,” Crump declared, according to NewsOne.