Grand Jury Fails to Indict for Johnson’s Death

Grand Jury Fails to Indict for Johnson’s Death

Former FCPD Sgt. Wesley Shifflett won’t face criminal charges, at least now.

A grand jury decided on Monday, April 17, not to indict a former Fairfax County Police Department officer. He fatally shot Timothy McCree Johnson, a 37-year-old unarmed Black man from Washington D.C., during an alleged shoplifting incident at Nordstrom Tysons Corner Center in McLean on the evening of Feb. 22. The merchandise: two pairs of sunglasses.

In a released statement Monday afternoon, April 17, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said, “Earlier this morning, I sat with Timothy Johnson’s family and told them I expected an indictment to come today in the killing of their son, 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.” Descano did not proceed with his previously announced 12 p.m. press conference to provide an update on the investigation into Johnson’s death, during which he would read a statement and take questions. It was delayed until shortly before 2 p.m., then cancelled.

According to VA Courts .gov, the grand jury's function is to determine whether there is probable cause to require the accused to stand trial. It is not to determine guilt or innocence. Proceedings are kept in strict confidence. 

“Since, by law, no prosecutors were permitted to be present in the room when the investigating officers made their presentations to the grand jury, I can’t say for sure what information was conveyed to the grand jurors. In light of this outcome, I am evaluating all options on the path forward and continue to grieve Timothy’s loss,” Descano said.

During a press conference on March 23, FCPD Police Chief Kevin Davis said no firearm or other weapon was recovered from the scene. Davis said the officer had been served notice that day, “administratively separating” him from the Fairfax County Police Department. Davis clarified that is the equivalent of firing, and he did so because of the officer’s “failure to live up to the expectations of our agency, in particular use of force policies.". The fired officer was later identified as Sgt. Wesley Shifflett. 

Shifflett, a white officer in the FCPD Tysons Urban Team, fatally shot Johnson during a nighttime foot pursuit in a wooded area near the mall, according to Shifflett’s body-worn camera video released by FCPD. The chase ends with Shifflett saying, “Stop reaching. Stop Reaching. Don’t move.” It is followed by three pops heard “consistent with gunfire.” 

Johnson was shot in the chest. Johnson says: “I’m not reaching for nothing. I have nothing. … I’m shot, man. Hurry.”  Johnson was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

THE ATTORNEY for the Johnson Family spoke harshly about the failure to indict.

“It is unprecedented that when a Commonwealth’s Attorney requests an indictment and the Grand Jury doesn’t return a True Bill. Two detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department gave testimony for the Commonwealth to return these indictments.,” said Carl Crews, the Johnson Family attorney. “They tanked the case and turned the Grand Jury away from returning an indictment. This is nothing more than a ‘Blue Wall of Silence.’ The Blue protecting the blue. No one should be above the law, even former police officers.” 

Chief Davis did not immediately respond to a request for comment before the Connection’s deadline. Neither did Jeffrey McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors; nor Caleb Kerscher, attorney for Wesley Schifflett.