JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A State Attorney’s Office investigation concluded a Jacksonville sheriff’s officer was justified in shooting Jamee Johnson during a traffic stop in 2019.
The State Attorney’s Office released its investigation report on Monday afternoon, as well as body camera footage of the police-involved shooting. News4Jax was told Johnson’s family saw the video on Monday.
Johnson, a 22-year-old Florida A&M University student, was fatally shot by Officer Josue Garriga during a traffic stop on Dec. 14 at Buckman and 21st streets.
According to the investigation report, Johnson was pulled over for driving without a seat belt. Toward the beginning of the body camera video, Garriga asks: “Why are you so nervous?” Johnson responds: “I’m not. I’m just scared of police. I haven’t been pulled over in Jacksonville the whole time I’ve lived here.”
After he is pulled over, the video shows Johnson explaining he has a gun inside of a jacket in the car.
Editor’s cut: Body camera footage
At one point in the video, Garriga has Johnson get out of the car and asks: “Why do you smell like the way you smell?” Johnson replies that he was smoking hemp. The officer then requests to search the car, to which Johnson says: “There’s nothing -- no reason for you to search my vehicle, sir. I have my legal firearm, and that’s about it.”
The officer then tells Johnson he will escort him to the patrol car while he gets the receipt for the firearm. Soon after, for some unknown reason, Johnson can be seen pulling away and diving headfirst into his car as Garriga dives into the car behind him and the officer’s body camera gets knocked off its mount, falling to the ground.
“I was in immediate fear he was attempting to retrieve his firearm,” Garriga said in a statement.
Another officer’s body camera captured what happened next. The footage shows Johnson’s right foot pressing down on the accelerator and the car crashing through a fence into a nearby yard.
In his statement, Garriga explained what happened after the car crashed.
“The suspect began lifting the firearm in the direction of my face. In fear of being shot in the face or upper torso, I attempted to conceal my face behind the suspect’s head to prevent from being shot,” he said.
Garriga detailed in the statement what happened as the tussle continued.
“I was able to grab the right wrist of the driver, which the handgun was still in, and was able to push myself out of the vehicle. As I exited, I observed the suspect moving his body in my direction and I believe he still had the gun in his possession. Fearing for my life I fired my issued firearm at the suspect until he was no longer a threat,” he said.
Johnson suffered four gunshot wounds. In the video, Johnson can be seen lying on the ground.
“I can’t breathe. I’m dying, sir. Please help me,” he can be heard saying.
Johnson died at a hospital while in surgery. The investigation report stated the two gunshot wounds to the torso caused Johnson’s death.
The State Attorney’s Office investigation found Garriga was justified in shooting Johnson.
“At the time Officer Garriga shot Johnson, he had a reasonable belief, under Florida law, that Johnson posed a deadly threat to him and his fellow officer,” the investigation report said.
VIEW: Case files
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said he agrees with the State Attorney’s Office’s decision to rule the shooting justifiable.
“The officer had no choice. He had to use deadly force. He was justified, in my opinion, in using deadly force for his safety and the safety of others,” Jefferson said.
According to the investigation report, Johnson’s gun was still in the car after the scuffle, near the center console and partially removed from the inside pocket of the jacket. The report stated the gun was loaded with 31 rounds, and there was a second loaded magazine in the glove compartment. The report said there were also 200 grams of marijuana in a grocery bag in the car. In addition, a scale was found in the car, “evidence that the marijuana was not merely for personal use, but rather to sell,” the report said.
After the body camera footage was released, News4Jax reached out to Johnson’s family’s attorney, who said the family will be filing a federal lawsuit. He said the family believes the shooting was not justified.
Family members of Johnson were among the protesters calling for the release of all body camera video related to officer-involved shootings as nationwide calls for police reform spread across the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Last month, JSO released body camera footage of a police-involved shooting for the first time.