No charges for Fayetteville officers after woman shot 17 times, Attorney General says

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 6:27 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has announced no charges will be filed against Fayetteville police officers who shot and killed a 22-year-old woman.

Jada Johnson was shot 17 times by law enforcement on July 1, 2022, according to her autopsy report.

The shooting happened at the woman’s grandfather’s home on Colgate Drive in Fayetteville, just before 10 p.m. on July 1. Officers arrived to the home initially to a call about a break-in.

Rick Iwanski, her grandfather, said his granddaughter suffered from mental illness and was convinced her boyfriend was trying to get inside and kill her. He said he explained the situation to officers, but things escalated.

Attorney General Josh Stein said evidence showed that the officers acted reasonably in the face of a deadly threat.

“After conducting a thorough review of this case, my Special Prosecutions Section has concluded that charges should not be filed in this case, and I agree. The evidence shows that the officers faced a deadly threat and acted reasonably in response. Therefore, no charges will be brought,” Stein said in a release.

Stein called Johnson’s death a tragedy. He called for a sentinel event review to establish a better understanding of what could have been done differently that may have resulted in a better outcome. He said such a review is designed to better understand and learn from officer-involved shootings.

Stein said it was possible that a co-responder model that pairs social workers and other mental health experts with police officers could have helped better address the reason for a call.

He also called for the body camera footage recorded at the scene to be released in the interest of transparency to the people.

As of May 24, the only video available is home security footage provided to the public by Iwanski.

A lawsuit filed by Johnson’s family said she was armed and had threatened to kill herself. It claims Johnson lowered her gun and while she was distracted, was tackled and pinned down by police.

A State Bureau of Investigation search warrant claimed an officer tried to disarm Johnson as she held a gun under her arm. Fayetteville police told CBS 17 there was a struggle leading up to the shooting — something Iwanski disputes.

“This case also illustrates the damaging consequences of the proliferation of guns in the wrong hands. It is not known how Ms. Johnson came into possession of her gun, but red flag laws that keep guns out of the hands of people experiencing mental health issues who pose a risk to themselves or others would go a long way in keeping us all safer.”

Stein’s office said the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section took over the case on Oct. 14, 2022, at the request of District Attorney Billy West. The Special Prosecutions Section is available to prosecute or assist in prosecutions when district attorney offices face issues of conflict or resource constraints.

North Carolina Department of Justice informed Johnson’s grandparents and their attorney about the decision not to charge the officers on Wednesday morning. The family’s attorney said the meeting inside Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office was heated and the grandparents are heartbroken by the decision.

“We don’t believe the North Carolina Department of Justice was going to give justice to the Iwanski’s or justice for Jada,” Xavier de Janon, the attorney for Jada Johnson Estate said.

The court declined releasing bodycam video to the public of the incident.

“North Carolina Department of Justice has never prosecuted a police officer and today they continue on with this record of zero prosecution of officer killings in North Carolina,” de Janon said.