JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Friday requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement review the use of deadly force in the Jacksonville officer-involved shooting of Jamee Johnson last year.
Johnson, a 22-year-old Florida A&M student, was shot and killed by a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office deputy during a traffic stop in Dec. 2019. JSO said Johnson resisted arrest during the traffic stop in Jacksonville’s Tallyrand area.
Following his death, Johnson’s family and activist groups have called for the release of body camera footage of the incident, a request that was recently denied by the State Attorney’s Office.
The family’s attorney Lee Merritt told News4Jax that there are witnesses who have provided different versions of events than what officers have said took place and that those versions could be the basis for a potential wrongful death lawsuit.
Investigators said officers learned Johnson had a gun —a gun the family’s lawyer said he lawfully possessed — in the car while speaking with him. As Johnson walked to the officer’s patrol car, detectives said Johnson pushed JSO Officer Josue Garriga. The two struggled and Johnson got back in his car, according to police. The Sheriff’s Office said Johnson was reaching for his gun while Garriga was trying to gain control of him, while hanging onto the car.
Garriga fired four shots, killing Johnson, JSO said.
Police said Garriga was wearing a body camera, but Merritt fears the entire incident wasn’t recorded.
The State Attorney’s Office, which told the family that the footage can’t be released because it’s been submitted into evidence, has started its investigation into whether the shooting was justified. The State Attorney’s Office. It could take months or years before the results are released. After that, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s Response to Resistance Board will begin an internal review.
Fried’s request was sent Friday in a letter to FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen. As a member of the Florida Cabinet, Commissioner Fried jointly oversees FDLE alongside the Governor, the Attorney General and the Chief Financial Officer.
The letter reads in part:
In light of concerns expressed by the family of Jamee Johnson and members of the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, please consider this a formal request for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to conduct a review of the use of deadly force by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on December 14, 2019. … A thorough review by FDLE’s expert Special Agents and Analysts will allay any concerns and bring closure to all the parties involved, the Johnson family, the Sheriff’s Deputies involved, JSO, and the citizens of FloridaAgriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried
An FDLE spokesperson said it did receive the letter from Fried and added that it has previously offered assistance to JSO. As the letter explains, the spokesperson said, FDLE does not have the authority to investigate or assist unless the local agency requests it.
Legislators including State Rep. Ramon Alexander and Jacksonville District 14 Rep. Kimberly Daniels have also called for state review of the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
“My family recently lost a 23-year-old and his murderer is still not caught,” Daniels said. “So, I understand what this family needs. This family needs truth, this family needs justice and this family needs closure.”