JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A family is seeking legal action after a State Attorney’s Office investigation concluded a Jacksonville sheriff’s officer was justified in shooting Jamee Johnson during a traffic stop in 2019.
Attorney Harry Daniels is representing the family of Johnson, the 22-year-old Florida A&M University student who was fatally shot by Officer Josue Garriga during a traffic stop on Dec. 14 at Buckman and 21st streets.
The State Attorney’s Office released its investigation report on Monday, as well as body camera footage of the police-involved shooting. It’s something Kimberly Austin, Johnson’s mother, said she will not watch.
“I haven’t watched the video. I’m just only going by what was told to me. It does leave me with more questions than answers,” Austin said.
According to the investigation report, Johnson was pulled over for driving without a seat belt. After he is pulled over, the video shows Johnson explaining he has a gun inside of a jacket in the car.
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.
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. According to the report, the footage then shows “Garriga backing away from the open door of Johnson’s car while simultaneously firing shots, which can be heard on the BWC (body-worn camera). Johnson was shot and fell to the ground near the doorway of his car.”
Johnson’s family’s attorney said they want to file a federal lawsuit because they feel the shooting was not justified, saying there are inconsistencies with how the shooting happened. They claim Garriga shot Johnson while he was unarmed, outside of the car.
The attorney said this is contrary to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s original statement that Johnson was inside of the car.
Johnson’s father, Harvey Johnson, said he won’t stop fighting for justice for his son.
“From the original statement that was given to us ... up until we got the video evidence the other day, its been a direct basic lie from what was told to us,” he said.
Harry Daniels, the family’s attorney, said they hope to file the lawsuit soon. He did not specify what the lawsuit would be for.
“I think once the lawsuit is filed, it will be very clear that we have direct evidence, video evidence, and we have statements as such that’s directly on point on what transpired the day in question, so that information will be forthcoming,” Daniels said.
Attorney Reganel Reeeves, not affiliated with this case, said winning the lawsuit will be a challenge for the family.
“It would be an uphill battle from what I’m seeing,” Reeves said. “Looking at the body camera footage and looking at the state of Florida’s finding so far, but that’ doesn’t’ mean that it’s impossible. This would be a tough case.”