FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — One Fairfax County police officer has been fired (“administrative separation”) after he shot and killed 37-year-old Timothy Johnson near Tysons Corner Center in February, Chief of Police Kevin Davis announced on Thursday.
Davis spoke during a press conference after releasing body camera footage from the fatal shooting.
The footage came from the body-worn camera of Sgt. Wesley Shifflett, a seven-year veteran of the department. Authorities confirmed that Shifflett was the officer who was fired.
“There was a failure to live up to the expectations of our agency in particular use of force policies, protocols and procedures,” Davis said.
Johnson was accused of stealing sunglasses from Nordstrom inside the mall. After that, two officers — one in uniform, the other in plain clothes — chased him into a wooded area beyond a parking area.
“Going into the woods, going into the woods,” Shifflett was heard saying on the video moments before the first two shots were fired. Police said both officers fired their weapons a total of three times; Shifflett, the uniformed officer, was the one who fired the fatal shot.
After two pops, which the video identified as gunshots, could be heard, Shifflett said “stop reaching, stop reaching.” It was the first time he said those words.
The body-worn camera footage, even when slowed down and digitally enhanced by the department, did not clearly show if Johnson did reach for anything.
Davis would not offer an opinion on the video, calling it evidence in an active criminal investigation.
“I can’t speak to [if Johnson reached for anything] because it’s still under active consideration, and the criminal investigation,” Davis said.
Johnson was not armed, police said. After searching the wooded area the following day, they did not find a weapon. Davis said on Thursday all they found were two pairs of sunglasses.
After Johnson was shot, the video captures a man, presumably Johnson, saying, “I’m not reaching for nothing, I have nothing.”
The other officer who fired his gun was James Sadler, who has not been fired, but is on modified restrictive duty.
“Our assessment, which I’m not going to get into, of his actions that night, did not necessitate anything at the moment greater than a modified restrictive duty assignment,” Davis said.
The public release of the video came a day after Timothy’s mother, Melissa Johnson, and the family’s attorney, Carl Crews, were shown the video.
“Without such footage, these responsible would not have been held accountable for their wrongful actions,” Melissa Johnson said.
Crews described the shooting as an “execution” and called on the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano to take action.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Crews said. “This officer should not have his freedom at this point.”
In a statement, Descano wrote: “It is my responsibility to proceed with a comprehensive and independent investigation of this incident… I expect to make a decision on how best to proceed in the coming weeks.”
Davis also admitted regret from the night of the shooting, when he told the media the man who was shot had a “significant violent criminal history.” He said he should have answered questions on Johnson’s background with “much greater sensitivity.”
He also confirmed that neither Shifflett nor Sadler knew anything about Johnson when they shot at him, including his name.