On February 22nd, the Fairfax County Police Department released a statement announcing the dismissal of Sgt. Wesley Shifflett for the fatal shooting of Timothy McCree Johnson outside Tysons Corner Center in Virginia.
The incident took place after Johnson allegedly stole two pairs of sunglasses from a Nordstrom store, with police body camera footage showing a two minute long night chase that transpired from the mall, through a parking garage, and across a street before ending in a wooded area.
It remains unclear if Johnson was reaching for a weapon or if any weapon was present, but two shots were fired after an officer yelled “get on the ground” and “stop reaching,” followed by a third shot.
Responding to the incident, Sgt. Shifflett’s attorney, Caleb Kershner, defended his client’s use of lethal force, claiming that Shifflett had seen Johnson reaching for his waistband as if he were going for a weapon. Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis, however, disagreed, citing “a failure to adhere to agency use of force policies” as the grounds for Shifflett’s dismissal.
Johnson’s family attorney, Carl Crews, further heightened the tension by characterizing Johnson’s death as “an execution.” Additionally, Johnson’s mother, Melissa Johnson, accused Davis of “painting a negative half-truth” when discussing her son; Johnson had no court record in Fairfax, but was convicted of assault and gun crimes in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Davis later issued an apology for how he characterized Johnson the night of the shooting.
The shooting of Timothy McCree Johnson as well as the subsequent statement by Chief Davis raised many questions surrounding the use of firearms and policies of police departments around the country.
Davis mentioned that this is the only time shots have been fired at a suspect during a foot chase in the past 8 years and that he wants to develop a specific policy for this type of situation in the future.