PHOENIX (AP) — The family of an unarmed man shot and killed by an Arizona state trooper the same day George Floyd died said Friday they want a federal investigation.
“Phoenix police officers aren't willing to do anything on my behalf,” Dion Johnson's mother, Erma, told reporters. “They haven't contacted me. I haven't heard nothing since the day that it happened.”
The Phoenix Police Department is overseeing the investigation into the May 25 shooting. Family members expressed growing frustration that the trooper, who is on paid administrative leave, has not been identified to them. They also believe investigators have not interviewed other potential witnesses, attorney Jocquese Blackwell said.
Democratic state Rep. Reginald Bolding said he has sent a letter requesting the U.S. Justice Department review the case for possible civil rights violations.
“We believe the actions of these troopers must be looked into. There must be a true external investigation,” Bolden said.
The family is particularly bothered that Johnson, 28, was deprived of emergency medical aid for several minutes after he was shot and cuffed.
The incident began around 5:30 a.m. on Memorial Day when the trooper, who was on motorcycle patrol, noticed a car stopped on a freeway on-ramp in north Phoenix. He saw Johnson passed out in the driver’s seat. Open beer cans and a gun were also inside.
The trooper took the gun out of the car and then tried to arrest Johnson for driving while intoxicated, Phoenix Police Sgt. Maggie Cox said.
But the trooper told investigators that Johnson grabbed him while the door was open, leading to a struggle. The trooper took out his gun and ordered Johnson to follow his commands. Johnson did so until the trooper was putting his gun back into the holster, when Johnson grabbed for it and the trooper opened fire, Cox said.
A second trooper on a motorcycle arrived. But the two officers, who have not been identified, did not have body cameras on them, and their motorcycles were not outfitted with dash-cam video.
Video recorded by AZFamily.com from a Department of Public Safety traffic camera, however, captured the moments right after the shooting. The nearly six-minute clip shows two motorcycle troopers from a distance standing behind a vehicle. As Johnson lies on the ground handcuffed, one of the troopers then uses his foot to kick or nudge Johnson.
The camera pans back, revealing a Phoenix Fire Department ambulance stopped a short distance away. Four minutes later, the video shows the vehicle head toward the spot where Johnson is on the ground.
Erma Johnson said her son was not someone who would try to confront police.
When asked Thursday why the trooper’s name hasn’t been released, DPS director Col. Heston Silbert, said due diligence must be maintained for the criminal and internal investigations going on. He also had no answers for why paramedics were kept at bay for several minutes.
While the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer fueled protests nationwide, the death of Johnson, who was black, has also been a rallying point in Phoenix.
“Why did Dion get shot and killed when he was passed out drunk? That's a question that needs to be answered,” Blackwell said. "And that's all we want. We want answers."