Titusville, FL – The Titusville Police Department (TPD) has released bodycam footage showing a foot pursuit that ended with the officer-involved shooting of James Lowery (video below).
Now-former Titusville Police Officer Joshua Payne, 29, is facing a manslaughter charge in connection with Lowery’s death.
The incident occurred as Officer Payne 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 man was later identified as 40-year-old Lowery, Spectrum News 13 reported.
Officer Payne chased after him, firing his Taser multiple times to no avail, according to police.
Bodycam footage showed Officer Payne as he ordered Lowery to stop running and to stop reaching in his pockets.
Investigators later determined the suspect tossed bags of illegal drugs away as he was fleeing.
“Drop it! Drop it! Drop it!” the officer ordered, just before Lowery appeared to try to climb over a fence, the video showed.
That’s when Lowery turned and reached for Officer Payne’s gun and Taser, leading to a brief struggle, according to the TPD.
Officer Payne told the seemingly-cornered suspect to “get down” and fired his Taser at him again, but Lowery was unaffected by the jolt.
He even managed to grab the Taser leads at one point, according to the TPD.
Lowery then turned away from the officer and hoisted himself over the fence, ignoring Officer Payne’s repeated commands to stop, the video showed.
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 Florida Department of Law Enforcement (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.
He has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge.
Officer Payne was placed on unpaid leave from the TPD pending the outcome of an internal investigation, but he resigned from the force after he was criminally charged, WESH reported.
He had been with the TPD since July of 2020, according to Space Coast Daily.
The TPD completed its internal investigation and released the bodycam footage on June 23.
Titusville Police Chief John Lau said Officer Payne’s use of deadly force was not justified and that investigators believe the firearm discharge was accidental, WESH reported.
Chief Lau further noted that the officer violated multiple policies during the incident, to include having his firearm and his Taser out of their holsters at the same time.
“This was not a justified shooting. It was an accidental shooting with tragic results,” the chief said.
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.
“A shot to the back of the head – nothing else needs to be said. That is unjustified,” Crump said. “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.
Chief Lau said that Lowery’s “decision to run away from Officer Payne and physically resist his lawful orders to stop also contributed to this incident,” Florida Today reported.
Investigators discovered that Lowery was carrying 24 grams of oxycodone and 43 grams of fentanyl when he ran from Officer Payne.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. Warning – Graphic Content: