Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano requested a special grand jury investigate the February shooting of Timothy McCree Johnson, the unarmed suspected shoplifter shot in a wooded area near Tysons Corner Center.
The request, a rare one, came after a regular grand jury earlier this month declined to indict Sgt. Wesley Shifflett, the Fairfax County police officer who shot and killed 37-year-old Johnson, who is Black. Johnson, of DC, had been suspected of taking sunglasses from Nordstrom on February 22.
The police department fired Shifflett in March for what Police Chief Kevin Davis called “a failure to live up to the expectations of our agency, in particular use of force policies.”
An attorney for the Johnson family said he was told by Descano that a judge approved the request for the special grand jury, The Associated Press reports. Attorney Caleb Kershner told The Washington Post Descano did not respect the regular panel’s decision to not prosecute.
When the regular grand jury issued its decision, Descano hinted that he would make the request for the special grand jury. At that time, he said, “Since, by law, no prosecutors were permitted to be present in the room when the investigating officers made their presentation to the grand jury, I can’t say for sure what information was conveyed to the grand jurors. In light of this outcome, I am evaluating all options on the path forward and continue to grieve Timothy’s loss.”
With special grand jury proceedings, a commonwealth’s attorney may be present during the investigatory stage.
The only other time Descano has asked for a special grand jury, it involved the 2017 shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, 25, of McLean, by U.S. Park Police. He was shot after he drove away from an Alexandria fender-bender and officers chased him down the George Washington Parkway into a residential Fairfax County neighborhood. A federal judge dismissed that case. Ghaisar’s family reached a $5 million civil settlement with the federal government this month.
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