JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the body camera video of a 6-year-old being involuntarily committed at a Duval County school was released Thursday, the father of a 22-year-old man killed in a police-involved shooting wanted to know how the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office decides which videos to keep from the public and which videos to release.
Two dozen people gathered outside police headquarters in December of 2019, demanding the release of the body camera video showing the police shooting that killed 22-year-old Jamee Johnson.
During a traffic stop, police say the responding officer learned the Johnson had a gun. JSO said Johnson initially complied but then pushed the officer, reached for a weapon and was shot four times.
Johnson’s father and attorney dispute those facts and said they worry that JSO is only releasing body camera footage when it’s in the department’s best interest. JSO did release a picture of a gun that they say was found on Johnson’s front seat. The family’s attorney said he possessed the gun lawfully.
”I don’t think it’s fair," said Harvey Johnson, Jamee Johnson’s father. “They took a picture of a gun in the car and released it out to the news media and made it look like my son had a gun sitting on the seat next to him and he was reaching forward that’s the negative one way. You’re trying to characterize him as a criminal but that’s not how it was. On the contrary, the video camera could exonerate him and prove that’s not the case and that’s why they’re not releasing the footage right now.”
On Friday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement review the use of deadly force in the case.
The News4Jax I-TEAM has reviewed media requests for body cam video dating back to last summer and found more than 24 replies when JSO said the video was “not public record.”
According to News4Jax records, JSO has proactively released body camera video only once since December of 2018. That was a video of an officer shooting a dog that was released after people in the community claimed he didn’t have to kill the animal.
A spokesman for JSO said it released the video of the 6-year-old girl who was Baker Acted on Thursday as a result of a public records media request.
When asked about the department’s policy, a spokesperson told the News4Jax, “if we don’t release the video, there’s a legitimate legal reason it can’t be released.”
News4Jax asked Sheriff Mike Williams last month about body camera footage, and Williams said the video is treated as evidence, and will eventually be released.
“All of that process is an internal investigation and it’s protected by state law,” Williams said. “So we can’t release that at that point. At the end of that investigation, all of that footage will become public record.”
Still, Johnson’s father said in his opinion the department only releases body camera video, when it benefits JSO.
"We are asking for the body camera footage to be released so then we will know precisely what happened and the fact that they wouldn’t show us the body camera footage leads us to believe that there’s something damaging to JSO,” he said.
A sheriff’s spokesman said it could be more than a year before body camera video is released because of two investigations, one by JSO and the other by the State Attorney’s Office.