A Virginia police officer who fatally shot an alleged shoplifter at a mall in Fairfax County was fired Thursday from his post as officials released body camera footage of the encounter. Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Police Department
March 23 (UPI) -- A Virginia police officer who fatally shot an alleged shoplifter at a mall in Fairfax County was fired Thursday as officials released body camera footage of the encounter.
Sgt. Wesley Shifflett with the Fairfax County Police Department had responded with another officer to an alleged theft at Tysons Corner Center at 6:13 p.m. on Feb. 22, according to the video footage released Thursday.
Loss prevention staff at the mall notified Shifflett and police officer James Sadler that a man, later identified as 37-year-old Timothy Johnson, was allegedly stealing sunglasses from Nordstrom.
Johnson can be seen in the video footage removing two pairs of sunglasses from the display case and an anti-theft alarm at the store's exit was activated when as he walked out of the building toward the parking garage, according to the surveillance footage.
A plainclothes police officer who was at the scene witnessed the alarm go off as Johnson exited around 6:30 p.m., officials said. Officers followed Johnson into the parking garage and watched him go down a set of stairs, officials said.
A uniformed police officer who arrived at the scene chased Johnson as he exited the parking garage and ran towards Route 7, the body camera footage shows.
The officers continued to chase after Johnson, who ran across a nearby boulevard and into a wooded area, officials said.
"Crossing over, guys!" an out-of-breath officer can be heard saying in the body camera footage. "Get on the ground! Get on the ground!"
Multiple gunshots can be heard in the video footage as both officers fired their weapons at Johnson, who was hit in the chest one time and died.
At one point, the uniformed officer appears to instruct Johnson to "stop reaching" after the shots already were heard in the video footage.
Police Chief Kevin Davis said at a news conference Thursday that officers are still investigating why the officers discharged their weapons and declined to comment on whether Johnson had been reaching for an object at the time he was shot, according to NBC News.
Johnson's mother, Melissa Johnson, told WRC-TV that the footage released Thursday confirms that her son was unarmed at the time of the encounter.
"The only thing they knew was that he was Black and male and had allegedly triggered an alarm at a store for some sunglasses," she said.
Addressing the allegations of shoplifting in February, Melissa Johnson admitted that shoplifting is "absolutely not" right, WRC-TV reported.
"But we have laws in place to address shoplifting," Melissa Johnson said at the time. "Should my son have been murdered because he shoplifted from the mall?"
Carl Crews, an attorney for Johnson's family, called the death an "execution" at a news conference, NBC News reported.
"It doesn't show the officer faced any danger, imminent or otherwise," Crews said. "Justice delayed is justice denied. This officer should not have his freedom at this point."