State Attorney Melissa Nelson’s office released its report and officer-worn body camera video of the officer-involved fatal shooting of Jamee Johnson Monday afternoon, finding the shooting was justified.
Johnson, a 22-year-old FAMU student, was shot to death on December 14, 2019, by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Officer Josue Garriga. He had no prior criminal record.
Garriga had pulled over Johnson for driving without a seatbelt, which is against Florida law, according to the report. The officer smelled marijuana and saw what he believed were marijuana flakes. Johnson denied that but disclosed he had a firearm in the car on the floor of the passenger seat.
After Garriga told Johnson he was going to put him in the back of his patrol car to search the car, the video shows, the situation quickly escalated. Johnson broke away from Garriga and lunged into his car, where, the report says, the gun that he had described to Garriga was located.
At that point, the report’s executive summary reads, in part:
Inexplicably, and for reasons we can only speculate, Johnson shoved Officer Garriga in the chest and jumped headfirst into his car toward the very gun he had just described to Officer Garriga. Officer Garriga dove after Johnson to prevent him from accessing the gun. During the struggle, Johnson placed the car in drive and crashed through a fence into a nearby yard, dragging Officer Garriga along the way. While Officer Garriga was inside the car struggling with Johnson, the struggle turned deadly when Johnson grasped his gun and lifted the gun toward Officer Garriga’s face. Officer Garriga immediately tried to hide behind Johnson’s head, to avoid being shot. Officer Garriga pushed himself out of the car and, believing Johnson was armed, fired until Johnson no longer posed a threat.
Johnson died following after being shot four times according to the report, which determines Officer Garriga's gunshots were lawful and justified:
After thorough investigation, this Office renders the legal opinion that Officer Garriga’s actions were lawful and justified as defined in applicable Florida law. We reached this opinion after a comprehensive review of the evidence and the consultation of an independent expert in the field of policing, including the use of force, police tactics, body-worn camera usage, and industry practices and standards.
A copy of the video has been provided to WJCT News by the State Attorney’s Office. Because it contains graphic violence resulting in a human death, WJCT News is opting not to show it, although some screenshots from the video are included in this story.
Last month the Jacksonville Community Action Committee (JCAC) held a peaceful protest, which was attended by an estimated 3,000 people. In a press release, JCAC demanded the release of JSO body-worn camera footage relating to all police shootings, including three shootings that resulted in the deaths of Johnson, Kwame Jones and Reginald Boston. There have also been other protests.
Sheriff Mike Williams has said JSO would conduct a separate internal investigation into the Johnson shooting after the state attorney's findings were released.