Attorney: Video shows police used excessive force in man’s death

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The attorney for the family of a man shot to death by police says surveillance video shows officers used excessive force.

The family of Joshua “Omar” Johnson marched, protested and even sued to get the surveillance video from Norfolk Police, and now their attorney, John Cooper, finally has it. Cooper would not show 1o On Your Side the video because he has not shown the family, yet. But, he says the video shows the officers used unreasonable force in Omar’s killing.

A Norfolk officer shot and killed Johnson at the drive thru of a Wells Fargo in Ghent last May. Police say Johnson tried to cash a stolen check and then backed his car into a police officer. Cooper now has surveillance video from Wells Fargo, police dash camera video and audio from the 911 tapes on the day of the shooting.

“Obviously there were mistakes made by Joshua Johnson,” said Cooper. “There were also mistakes made by police. The main thing is the police are the ones in control of the situation, and they set this up in a way that was not proper and, in my opinion, very much unreasonable.”

Cooper says the video shows Norfolk police did not act according to procedure when they shot Johnson.

“What we’re going to do is send the video to a police procedure expert down in Florida, who is a top-notch national-level expert,” said Cooper. “He is going to help analyze it and see whether the police made the mistakes we believe they made in the way they handled themselves that night.”

After Johnson tried to cash a bad check, Norfolk Police blocked him in, that’s when Johnson put his car in reverse. A source who has seen the video told 10 On Your Side before Johnson reversed his car, he looked at his girlfriend in the passenger’s seat then gradually backed up.

Cooper says his police experts have already caught mistakes police made that day. The first mistake was when a Norfolk officer walked behind Johnson’s car as it was already backing up. That forced the other officer to fire into Johnson’s car 13 times.

“If it hadn’t been for the fact that the police officer was almost going to be hit by the car, the other officer would never be justified in opening fire,” said Cooper.

Norfolk’s City Attorney responded to Cooper’s statement in an email: “The officer who unfortunately had to shoot was doing so in response to the decedent’s attempt to use his car to run over the person behind it. The officer’s decision to shoot to protect life is understandable and, as a matter of law, reasonable.”

Norfolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has ruled the use of deadly force by officers was justified. Johnson’s family attorney says he plans to have a sit down with the city. He says if he reaches a settlement there will be no need to pursue the lawsuit he currently has against the two Norfolk Police officers involved in the shooting.

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