State Attorney’s Office rules Jacksonville man’s killing justified

Agency finds Justin Reed ‘posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm’ to police

Photo of Justin Reed, provided by family, on image from surveillance video provided by Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ.
Photo of Justin Reed, provided by family, on image from surveillance video provided by Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 4th Circuit State Attorney’s Office has ruled the deadly November 2020 police shooting of a 34-year-old Jacksonville man justified, News4Jax learned on Monday.

Justin Darryel Reed was shot a dozen times during an armed confrontation with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office outside his East 63rd Street home on the city’s Eastside Nov. 4, 2020. He died of his injuries.

The State Attorney’s Office based its investigative report on evidence including witness statements, surveillance video from a nearby church, investigative reports and a medical examiner’s report, among other items.

RELATED: Surveillance video captures deadly police shooting of rifle-wielding man

In arriving at its conclusion, the agency found that Reed “posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm” to the officers involved, who shot the 34-year-old in self-defense, according to the report.

The investigation stems from the shooting, which unfolded shortly after 10 p.m. Nov. 4, 2020.

According to the report, Det. I. Fields parked an undercover SUV on the street near Reed’s home to wait for detectives who were investigating gang activity to arrive. Officer G.A. Taylor was seated in the passenger seat while Officer M.L. Mullis sat in back.

Within minutes of their arrival, Reed came walking out from behind the home and approached the unmarked SUV armed with a rifle equipped with an extended magazine. Then, the report said, he banged the barrel of the rifle on the SUV’s hood.

“Who the (expletive) are you looking for?” Reed allegedly demanded.

Reed then leveled the rifle at the officers, according to surveillance video. The report said that’s when Officer Taylor drew his gun and lowered his window. It said that Officer Mullis told Reed they were “police,” and Officer Taylor ordered him to drop the rifle.

According to the report, Reed ignored the commands and kept his rifle trained on the officers, both of whom opened fire. He was given first aid and taken to an area hospital, where he died of his injuries.

A semiautomatic SKS rifle with an extended magazine was recovered at the scene.

Though the incident was captured on surveillance footage, neither of the officers’ body cameras was switched on at the time of the shooting. Det. Fields’ body camera captured the gunfire, but it did not record any audio.

At first, investigators did not believe Reed fired his rifle during the shooting. But based on damage to the detective’s SUV, a bullet fragment and a closer review of surveillance video, the investigation ultimately found he discharged a round at the vehicle. He did not fire first.

The medical examiner’s office determined that Reed was struck with 12 rounds of police gunfire.

A toxicological screen completed as part of the autopsy also found the presence of THC, a marijuana metabolite, and bath salts in Reed’s system, according to the report.

Besides the officers involved, investigators examining the shooting reviewed statements made by Reed’s fiancée, Shakeisha Watson. Watson was interviewed three times and told a different story each time, according to the report, which said some of her statements were contradicted by evidence.

In her initial interview, Watson said she was walking her dog when she heard gunfire. She told police she did not see the shooting. The next day, the report said, Watson acknowledged lying to investigators the night before. This time, she said she saw police shoot Reed, but didn’t hear them announce themselves.

During her final interview, Watson told investigators she and Reed were inside when they saw the SUV outside, the report said. She said she saw Reed walk up to the vehicle and confront the officer before, she said, all three of them opened fire. She denied having any knowledge of the rifle Reed carried.

“This third statement was inconsistent with her prior two statements, and belied by physical evidence, and the security video from the Temple Gospel Church,” the State Attorney’s report stated.

The shooting marked the first time Officers Mullis and Taylor, both of whom have been employed by JSO since 2017, fired their weapons in the line of duty.

Reed, whose criminal history included four felony convictions and 27 misdemeanor convictions, had a warrant out for his arrest in a domestic violence case at the time of the shooting. Because of his felony convictions, Reed was not allowed to have a gun.

The report found that based on the evidence available, the police shooting was justified.

“We have conducted a thorough review of the evidence in this matter. Based on this, and our review of applicable Florida law, Officer Taylor and Officer Mullis’ use of deadly force was justified.”

Ben Frazier, a local civil rights activist with the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, released a statement Monday in response to the State Attorney’s report. He called Reed’s shooting unfortunate, saying Reed was “only trying to protect his family and home.”

“If this incident had taken place in Mandarin the police would have knocked on the door of a white homeowner and properly identified themselves,” Frazier said.