FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said Thursday that a special grand jury returned indictments against a police officer who shot and killed a man accused of stealing sunglasses from a store in Tysons Corner in February.
The indictments against Sgt. Wesley Shifflett were for involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm.
Shifflett, whom the Fairfax County Police Department fired as a result of the incident, shot Timothy McCree Johnson, 37, of Washington, D.C. on Feb. 22. Timothy Johnson was accused of stealing sunglasses from a store at Tysons Corner Center.
In April, a grand jury chose not to indict Shifflett after it found that there was not enough probably cause to do so.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney made the decision to impanel the special grand jury to look into the police shooting after the grand jury failed to return the indictments.
Shifflett was one of two officers who opened fire the day that police received a report of the theft that was to have taken place. The other officer was not connected to Timothy Johnson’s death.
After the announcement of the indictment, Timothy Johnson’s mother, Melissa Johnson, spoke with DC News Now.
“I’m joyful and I’m so grateful,” she said. “But I’m so humble because this is not everyone’s story.”
Johnson reiterated what she has said numerous times at rallies since the shooting: she wants her son’s death to result in change and reform — namely, the implementation of a foot pursuit policy by the county’s police department.
“I want accountability,” she said. “[So] that another family will not have to get that 1 a.m. knock at the door to be given notification that their Black or brown child has been killed by police.”
Thursday’s indictment marks just the second time since at least 2005, that a Fairfax County police officer was indicted after shooting, or shooting at someone. Since then, there have been 53 instances of “officer-involved shootings.” Four of those cases are still pending, and 47 have found no basis for criminal liability, according to DC News Now’s analysis of the department’s public data.
The Johnson family attorney, Carl Crews, said body-worn camera was crucial in this case, and feels the special grand jury’s conclusion was backed by the facts.
In Virginia, a key difference between a grand jury, which returned no true bill against Shifflett earlier this year, and a special grand jury is whether prosecutors can be present in presenting the evidence.
Fairfax County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, said at times he presented to the jurors personally.
“Our role here as prosecutors is to apply the law impartially and fairly, regardless of who is on the other end of that,” Descano said.
Shifflett will be back in court for an arraignment on Friday, Oct. 20.