Grand jury refuses to indict officer for fatal mall shooting

Apr 17, 2023, 12:30 PM

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A grand jury has refused to indict a former northern Virginia police officer after he fatally shot an unarmed shoplifting suspect outside a busy shopping mall in February.

Authorities presented the case to a grand jury for an indictment against Wesley Shifflett, who shot and killed Timothy McCree Johnson outside Tysons Corner Center on Feb. 22.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano — who ran for office on a reform agenda that included holding police accountable for misdeeds — had called a press conference Monday, presumably to announce criminal charges.

But the noon press conference was first delayed, then canceled. Later in the day, Descano issued a statement saying he’s “evaluating all options” following the grand jury’s decision.

“Since, by law, no prosecutors were permitted to be present in the room when the investigating officers made their presentation to the grand jury, I can’t say for sure what information was conveyed to the grand jurors,” Descano said.

The shooting occurred after Shifflett and another Fairfax County police officer chased Johnson on foot from the mall after receiving a report from security guards that Johnson had stolen sunglasses from a Nordstrom department store.

Dimly lit body camera video shows the chase and the shooting. The officer is heard saying “Get on the ground” and later saying “stop reaching” as shots are fired. After the shooting, Shifflett tells another officer that he saw Johnson “continually reaching in his waistband.”

A search of the grounds after the shooting turned up no weapons.

Shifflett’s lawyer, Caleb Kershner, praised the grand jury for its decision.

“The grand jury has seen this case for exactly what it is,” Kershner said.

Kershner said Johnson’s death is a tragedy but that his client acted reasonably when he believed he saw Johnson reaching for a weapon in his waistband.

Shifflett was fired last month for what Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis called “a failure to live up to the expectations of our agency, in particular use of force policies.”

A lawyer for Johnson’s family likened the shooting to an execution. Johnson’s mother, Melissa Johnson, said officers shot her son when all they knew at the time was “that he was Black and male and had allegedly triggered an alarm from a store for some sunglasses.”

The Johnson family’s lawyer, Carl Crews, declined comment Monday on the grand jury’s decision.

Descano, in his statement, said he had contacted Johnson’s family Monday morning and told them he expected an indictment.

“So I can only imagine their pain and shock when they received the news that the officer — who shot and killed their unarmed son — was not indicted,” he said.

Defense lawyer Kershner said it would be “vindictive and almost anti-police” if Descano were to try to obtain an indictment from a different grand jury.

“The grand jury, thank God, did the right thing, and the commonwealth’s attorney’s office now has to accept that,” he said.

United States News

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on June 3, ...

Associated Press

High-profile attacks on Derek Chauvin and Larry Nassar put spotlight on violence in federal prisons

Derek Chauvin was stabbed nearly two dozen times in the law library at a federal prison in Arizona. Larry Nassar was knifed repeatedly in his cell at a federal penitentiary in Florida. The assaults of two notorious, high-profile federal prisoners by fellow inmates in recent months have renewed concerns about whether the chronically understaffed, crisis-plagued […]

7 minutes ago

FILE - Maureen Reid, left, and her guide dog, Gaston, cross the intersection of Wood Street and Roo...

Associated Press

Census Bureau wants to change how it asks about disabilities. Some advocates don’t like it

The U.S. Census Bureau wants to change how it asks people about disabilities, and some advocates are complaining that they were not consulted enough on what amounts to a major overhaul in how disabilities would be defined by the federal government. Disability advocates say the change would artificially reduce their numbers by almost half. At […]

11 minutes ago

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)...

Associated Press

Retail group pulls back on claim organized retail crime accounts for nearly half of inventory loss

The National Retail Federation has revised a report that pulls back the claim that organized retail crime accounts for nearly half of overall industry shrink.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Hunter Biden indicted on nine tax charges, adding to gun charges in special counsel probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hunter Biden was indicted on nine tax charges in California on Thursday as a special counsel investigation into the business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son intensifies against the backdrop of the looming 2024 election. The new charges — three felonies and six misdemeanors — are in addition to federal firearms charges […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Mother of Florida boy accused of football practice shooting now charged with felony

APOPKA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida woman whose 11-year-old is accused of shooting two teenagers at a football practice in October was charged with a felony Thursday after authorities say she left a loaded gun in a worn and tattered cardboard box in her car. Sharelle Johnson, 33, did not have the box secured and […]

4 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Collins Comfort

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Sponsored Articles

Follow @iamdamonallred...

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Grand jury refuses to indict officer for fatal mall shooting