Grand jury declines to indict Fairfax Co. officer who shot unarmed man near Tysons Corner Center

A grand jury in Fairfax County, Virginia, has declined to indict a former Fairfax County officer who fatally shot an unarmed man near Tysons Corner Center mall in February.

In a brief statement Monday afternoon, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said he was surprised by the grand jury’s decision not to indict former Fairfax County Sgt. Wesley Shifflett in the shooting death of 37-year-old Timothy McCree Johnson, who was suspected of shoplifting a pair of sunglasses from the mall.

The charges sought were for involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm.

“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 the statement.

The county’s top prosecutor was initially scheduled to hold a news conference Monday that was first delayed and then pushed back indefinitely.

Under the law, Descano said, no prosecutors were allowed to be in the room when the Fairfax County police officers who investigated the shooting made their presentation to the grand jury, adding, “I can’t say for sure what information was conveyed to the grand jurors.”

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

Shifflett’s attorney, Caleb Kersher, told WTOP the grand jury made the right decision.

“No one takes any pleasure in this process. And it certainly is very sad given the circumstances, but there’s no question in my mind — and never has been — that Officer Shifflett acted 100% according to his training, 100% within the law. And not just that, but he acted properly, given the circumstances of the case.”

Descano could present the case to another grand jury, but Kershner said it would be “incredibly rare and unusual,” for him to do so in this case.

Bodycam footage released last month

Last month, Fairfax County police released body-worn camera footage of the Feb. 22 shooting.

Johnson was suspected of shoplifting a pair of sunglasses from a Nordstrom at the mall that evening, triggering an anti-theft alarm. Two officers followed Johnson out of the mall and chased him into a nearby woods, before opening fire.

Shifflett was fired by the department last month, after an internal administrative investigation determined he violated the department’s use-of-force policies, according to officials.

The other officer, James Sadler, has been on administrative duty since the shooting.

The bodycam footage came from the camera worn by Shifflett. Sadler was in plainclothes at the time of the shooting and did not have a body camera.

The body camera video does not clearly show what officers saw before the shooting.

During the chase, one of the officers can be heard shouting, “Get on the ground! Get on the ground! Get on the ground!” before two loud pops consistent with gunfire are heard. A few seconds later, another loud pop is heard and an officer shouts, “Stop reaching! Stop reaching!”

Both officers, assigned to the Tysons Urban Team, fired their weapons — one officer fired twice and the other officer fired once. Johnson was struck once in the chest.

A lawyer for the Johnson family, at the time the video was released, said it showed “an execution by a Fairfax County police officer.”

Melissa Johnson, Timothy Johnson’s mother, had called for an independent investigation into her son’s killing, as did the Fairfax County NAACP.

Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis faced criticism over remarks he made directly after the shooting, describing Johnson as someone with “a significant violent criminal history” who was “absolutely very well-known to law enforcement in the national capital region.”

Johnson did not have a criminal record in Fairfax County, according to court records. He had assault and gun convictions against him in Maryland and D.C. dating back 20 years.

Davis apologized last month, saying when he was asked about Johnson’s past criminal history, he should’ve answered “with much greater sensitivity.”

WTOP’s Nick Iannelli and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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