Jamee Johnson, 22, had plans to graduate this spring from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University alongside his sister. But in December he was killed by police officers during a traffic stop in Jacksonville.
His family is demanding more answers and some lawmakers joined that call at the Capitol Thursday.
"My name is Kimberly Austin. I am Jamee Johnson’s mother and there are no words to describe how I’m feeling. Jamee was my youngest son 22, I had just spoken with Jamee earlier before this happened."
Austin said when she spoke to her son it was the usual call.
"He was just calling like how he always do you know seeing how I’m doing see what’s going on stuff like that," she said.
Johnson was killed later that day by Officer Josue Garriga during a traffic stop in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office quickly convened a press conference led by Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters.
"When the vehicle came to an abrupt stop Officer Garriga fired his service weapon four times, striking the suspect, where he was transferred to a local hospital and he has since been pronounced diseased," Waters said.
Garriga had less than two years on the job at JSO. But it wasn’t his first time being involved with a shooting death. In 2015 he worked for Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and took part in a drug sting that left a man dead. Johnson’s father, Harvey Johnson doesn’t believe JSO’s account. Nor does he like the way the office is handling the case.
"The way that JSO isn’t answering any questions. Not coming forth with any type of narrative that we can believe other than to say that, ‘Well Jamee was reaching for a gun," he said.
The same day as the shooting, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office uploaded a photo on its Twitter page showing the gun in the passenger seat, easily accessible to a driver. It’s not illegal to carry guns in cars – loaded or not. And no type of permit is required. The only requirement is that a gun be securely encased or not readily accessible for immediate use. Johnson takes issue with the photo police released.
"What I was upset about JSO was, they put a picture of a gun - which was his [Jamee's] gun with an extended barrel on it, as far as I know - but [what] we asked the state attorney, ‘was it found right there?’" Johnson said he was told it wasn't found where it was pictured, which upset him more.
"So you was setting a stage [that] this was a thug, this was a criminal, he was doing something illicit. That’s why he had this gun with this extended magazine."
He said JSO hasn’t been much of a help since day 1. "I found out what happened to my son off of Facebook."
Johnson now believes JSO is trying to close the case.
"They called us a couple of weeks ago and told us that if we didn’t come up with any witnesses that they need to close the case," explained Johnson. "I want to know why we as the family need to come up with witnesses for the state. I thought it was their job to go out and find witnesses."
The one witness JSO had was later discredited by the State Attorney’s office.
"They said they talked to one young lady that night that was taking her groceries out the car the state attorney said she didn’t seem credible. My understanding what’s credible, to me the officer ain’t credible. He has a history of killing. So why would he be more credible than the next person?" asked Johnson.
The day after the shooting took place FAMU alumnus and Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take action. Six weeks later, he repeated the call.
"We are requesting an independent investigation from the Florida Department of Law enforcement. And we also want to get access to the tapes unedited, and let’s be clear, unedited access to the tapes," said Alexander.
Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D-Windermere) likened the case to history repeating itself. She said it reminds her of 2015, when 31-year-old Corey Jones was shot and killed by an undercover police officer.
"This reminds me of 2015 when Corey Jones, a musician, was leaving a performance and had problems with a car. His car broke down on the side of the road in Palm Beach Gardens. He was approached by a plain-clothed officer," explained Thompson.
Law enforcement initially determined there was no need for an investigation but later charged the officer with manslaughter. He was tried and convicted. That case inspired Thomson to sponsor a law to help in these situations. It requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate use of force incidents that result in death or injury.
Thompson wants the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to work with FDLE and provide the family answers to what happened with their son.
"It’s been about six weeks and I still don’t know originally what happened, why they stopped him or anything. Til this day, JSO has never contacted me since he was driving my vehicle. And it’s hard for me not knowing anything, not knowing what happened to my child," said Johnson.