NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Newly released surveillance video shows Joshua “Omar” Johnson look over his shoulder and back his car up as an officer follows with his gun drawn. This is one of the last moments of Johnson’s life – just before the Norfolk police officer shot and killed the 22-year-old at a local bank last year.
Police said that day in May 2013 Johnson tried to cash a stolen check at the drive-through of a Wells Fargo in Ghent. An officer fired his weapon at Johnson’s car as he left the drive-through, according to police documents. Thirteen shots were fired into Johnson’s car.
“I do believe in my heart that Joshua Johnson didn’t realize until the officer behind Williams slammed his hands down on the trunk that there was an officer behind there who was in danger,” said John Cooper, the family’s attorney. “And I think Joshua Johnson immediately hit his brakes, going from about 5 miles an hour down to a stop in just a few feet.”
The Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney ruled last September the use of deadly force by police was justified, which cleared officers Matthew Watson and Mathew Wilson of criminal charges. After that, Benjamin Newsome, Johnson’s father, filed a $7 million wrongful death lawsuit against the two officers.
The lawsuit claims “Johnson was killed by the excessive and unreasonable use of deadly force.” It goes on to say the “excessive and unreasonable use of deadly force were the results of errors and recklessness on the part of the police.” It also states officers violated police safety rules by barricading Johnson’s vehicle.
The officers tried to have the lawsuit thrown out, but the judge ruled in favor of Johnson’s family. His 11-page opinion on the case contains the following:
The Court concludes that Plaintiff has provided sufficient factual allegations to establish that Officer Williams acted in concert with Officer Watson. Moreover, the Court finds that Plaintiff has established that immediately before and during the shooting it may have been objectively unreasonable for an officer at the scene to emerge from the bank building to stand near an arrestees’ vehicle as did Officer Williams. Likewise, Plaintiff has established that Officer Williams knew or should have known that Johnson would reverse his vehicle toward where he stood and Officer Watson would react with excessive force. The Second Amended Complaint satisfies its burden of alleging that Officer Williams, either individually or in concert, engaged in conduct immediately before and during the shooting that is causally connected to Officer Watson’s allegedly excessive force and unreasonable seizure. Plaintiff pleads facts for his claim against Officer Williams to survive dismissal.
According to Norfolk city officials, the lawsuit is not yet settled and won’t be without a court order. Cooper said the family is close to settling with the city.
“They’re not admitting that they’re at fault or that their officers did anything wrong, but I do feel that it is a vindication for my client to show that this was an unnecessary police shooting of an unarmed black man,” Cooper said.