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Arizona prosecutor says Floyd case could influence Dion Johnson charges

Protesters rally Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Phoenix during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Metro Phoenix’s top prosecutor acknowledged that the response to George Floyd’s death influences the pending decision about charges in a fatal shooting by an Arizona state trooper.

“In a way it does because, guess what, in Maricopa County we’re going to do the right things for the right reasons,” Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

“And if we have people, law enforcement or otherwise, committing crimes, we’re going to hold them accountable.”

An unnamed Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper shot and killed Dion Johnson, a 28-year-old black man, after an alleged struggle on a north Phoenix freeway on May 25, authorities have said.

Last week, police said a handgun was recovered at the scene. On Wednesday, Phoenix police said the gun had been removed from the vehicle and secured before the trooper made contact with Johnson, who was passed out or asleep in his car on the Loop 101 near Tatum Boulevard.

Johnson died around 5:30 a.m. on Memorial Day, the same day Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis. Adel called Floyd’s death “reprehensible.”

Bystander video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes sparked protests around the world against police brutality and discrimination. Chauvin and the three officers on the scene who didn’t stop him are facing criminal charges.

Demonstrators in downtown Phoenix have been mentioning Johnson along with Floyd and other subjects of police violence.

The Phoenix Police Department is conducting the investigation into Johnson’s death. Adel said she hopes to receive the police report within the next 30 days, and her office will decide whether to file charges after reviewing the evidence.

“They are doing a full workup,” she said. “I have absolute confidence in our law enforcement agencies to make sure we have a full briefing, a full investigative report to make sure we are doing the right thing.”

The trooper, a 54-year-old man with 15 years of service time, was not equipped with a camera on his body or his motorcycle. Neither was another trooper who reported to the scene on Loop 101 near Tatum Road after the shooting.

Video footage is helpful for making charging decisions, Adel said, but “we will still have as much investigative information as we possibly can.”

Adel said to her knowledge there are 1-2 witness statements from motorists who were driving by the incident.

“I think we’re going to take every case by case, individually, and look at it and evaluate it and adhere to our ethical duties,” she said.

On Monday, state Rep. Reginald Bolding wrote a letter to DPS Director Col. Heston Silbert seeking more transparency in the Johnson case.

“To passively dismiss this incident as ‘a struggle’ when it took a man’s life will not be acceptable to me, or the communities I represent,” Bolding, a Democrat who represents south Phoenix and surrounding areas, wrote.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report.

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