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Dion Johnson case submitted to prosecutors for decision on charges

Protesters gather in front of Phoenix City Hall, Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Phoenix while protesting the death of George Floyd, Dion Johnson and other subjects of police violence. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – The police investigation into a fatal shooting by an Arizona state trooper is in the hands of metro Phoenix prosecutors, who will decide whether to press charges after reviewing the high-profile case.

The Phoenix Police Department and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office both confirmed that the investigation into Dion Johnson’s death was submitted Tuesday.

“There is no timeline for a charging decision, but the county attorney has asked staff to prioritize a review of this case,” MCAO spokeswoman Jennifer Liewer said in a statement emailed to KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

Authorities have said an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper shot and killed Johnson on March 25 after a struggle on the Loop 101 near Tatum Boulevard in north Phoenix.

Johnson, a 28-year-old Black man, died around 5:30 a.m. the same day George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.

The death of Floyd — which occurred after an officer, who has since been fired and charged with second-degree murder, knelt on his neck for around eight minutes — set off weeks of protests against police brutality and racial inequality across the nation and world.

During Phoenix-area rallies, protesters cited Johnson’s case along with those of Floyd and others killed by law enforcement officers as examples of injustice against minorities.

In early June, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel told KTAR News the response to the Floyd case could influence whether charges would be filed in the Johnson case.

“In a way it does because, guess what, in Maricopa County we’re going to do the right things for the right reasons,” she said.

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

On Wednesday, DPS identified the trooper who shot Johnson as George Cervantes. The 54-year-old with 15 years of service time is currently on administrative leave.

The motorcycle trooper who responded to the scene afterward has not been identified.

Neither individuals were equipped with body-worn cameras.

The only known video of the scene was captured by AZFamily, which started recording via Arizona Department of Transportation traffic cameras after hearing reports of a shooting. The video begins after the shooting occurred, with Johnson on the ground behind his car.

Adel told KTAR News in June that video footage is helpful for making charging decisions, but “we will still have as much investigative information as we possibly can.”

Police have said the trooper contacted Johnson because he was unresponsive in a car stopped in a freeway gore point. They said the trooper attempted to arrest Johnson for suspicion of drunk driving when the struggle and shooting occurred.

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