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Grand Jury Declines to Indict Virginia Officer in Killing of Unarmed Man Suspected of Shoplifting

A grand jury has declined to indict a Virginia police officer who shot and killed an unarmed shoplifting suspect, according to the county prosecutor.

Former Fairfax County Police Sergeant Wesley Shifflett was fired and faced a criminal investigation after the shooting death of Timothy Johnson in February.

Officers suspected Johnson had stolen items from a Tysons Corner shopping center that day, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis told reporters after the incident.

Police said Johnson was unarmed.

Shifflett’s attorney, Caleb Kershner, told CNN that the grand jury’s decision should be respected. His client feels horrible about the circumstances, but feared for his life, he said.

“To issue a reindictment would have a chilling effect on law enforcement,” Kershner said.

An officer noticed Johnson leaving the store when an anti-theft alarm went off, police said last month.

Bodycam footage released by police shows the officers chasing the suspect through the shopping mall and a parking garage, and into a grassy, wooded area of the mall property while shouting verbal commands.

One of the officers yells, “Get on the ground,” and then two gunshots can be heard in the video. One officer then says, “stop reaching,” and another shot is fired.

An officer then says, “Shots fired, shots fired,” and police begin to render aid to Johnson.

Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano said he is “evaluating all options” after expecting an indictment.

“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 said in a statement.

No prosecutors were allowed to be present when investigating officers spoke before the grand jury, so he “can’t say for sure what information was conveyed,” the prosecutor said.

“In light of this outcome, I am evaluating all options on the path forward and continue to grieve Timothy’s loss,” Descano said.

Source: BBC