The mother of Timothy Johnson, flanked by Northern Virginia faith leaders and political leaders, led a rally Tuesday afternoon outside the courthouse in Fairfax County, Virginia, demanding justice over the killing of her son by a county police officer near Tysons Corner Center in February.
“We just want a fair shake at the judicial system so that went wrong can be penalized for wrong, an officer or not an officer, when you have violated or broken the law you should be held accountable for that,” Melissa Johnson said.
Timothy Johnson 37, accused of shoplifting a pair of sunglasses, was unarmed when officers chased him into nearby woods and opened fire Feb. 22.
Although Fairfax County Police Sgt. Wesley Shifflett was fired in March, following an internal police investigation that found he violated the department’s use of force policies. A grand jury declined to indict him in April.
At the rally, Johnson’s family and supporters said they are patiently awaiting the work of a special grand jury, requested by Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano.
“A special grand jury will consist of seven to 11 jury members from Fairfax County … I believe in May and June of this year they will be seated. Shortly after that, the Commonwealth’s attorney will be introduced to the grand jury, and they will begin their work. He will start presenting evidence and testimony to them. I believe that will start in July,” said Carl Crews, the Johnson family attorney.
Johnson’s mother told the rally attendees that she’s in a difficult spot, forced to simultaneously grieve the loss of her son while also working to ensure that there is accountability for his death.
“My feelings and my thoughts feel like I’m just being held in abeyance … trying to go through the grieving and the mourning process but continuing to fight and to uplift and to keep my son’s name alive,” Melissa Johnson said.
Some rally participants held handmade signs reading “Justice for Timothy Johnson.” Representatives from several Northern Virginia churches and the president of the Fairfax County NAACP were among those who spoke.
“Far too often we have seen this (police shootings) in the national news, and now it has knocked on our very door in Fairfax County.,” said Pastor Vernon Walton, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Vienna and friend of the Johnson family. “And the same justice we’ve demanded nationally we are demanding right here.”
Speakers told the crowd that a 2020 Virginia state law specifying the criteria for when police may use deadly force would be tested in the case of Johnson’s death.
“One, there had to be a reasonable fear of death or severe bodily injury,” said Democratic state Sen. Chap Peterson. “Two, there had to be a verbal warning given and third, all other options had to be exhausted.”