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Family disputes official account of 2019 police shooting death of Jamee Johnson, plans to file suit

The officer who killed Johnson was cleared of wrongdoing, but Jamee Johnson's family says they will reveal new evidence at a Friday news conference.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The family of a 22-year-old FAMU student plans to file a federal lawsuit Friday against the city of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the officer who killed him during a December 2019 traffic stop.

22-year-old Jamee Johnson was shot and killed following a struggle with JSO Officer Josue Garriga. Police body cam footage shows -- and a subsequent investigation found -- Johnson dove into his car suddenly during the traffic stop. Garriga said he thought Johnson was going for a gun he'd previously said was inside the car under his jacket. 

Amid the struggle, the video shows, Johnson stepped on the vehicle's accelerator driving a short distance before crashing.

Garriga’s body cam is dislodged in the struggle, but footage from a second officer shows Garriga backing out of Johnson’s car firing four shots. Almost immediately he says breathlessly, “He tried to grab his gun on me.”

Soon after, Johnson can be seen outside of the car, lying on his back. "Please don’t let me die," he pleads. "I can’t breathe. I’m dying sir please. I don’t want to die. … I pray to god I don’t die.”

The two officers hold Johnson at gunpoint while awaiting backup and he dies minutes later.

RELATED: BODY CAM RELEASED IN JAMEE JOHNSON CASE

State Attorney Melissa Nelson found Garriga’s actions were justified because he was reasonably in fear for his life.

But Johnson family attorney Harry Daniels challenges the official version. He cites what he calls misstatements by Garriga, saying "I think it's very clear that the video doesn't show Jamee reaching for a weapon."

Garriga's written account of the incident says, "During the physical struggle, I was able to grab the right wrist of the driver, which the handgun was still in, and was able to push myself out of the vehicle.  As I exited, I observed the suspect moving his body in my direction and I believed he still had the gun in his possession."

Daniels says, "Based on Garriga's statements that he's given versus the evidence and video evidence that we have is inconsistent. Quite frankly what he said is untruthful."

Daniels says still frames of the shooting shows Johnson's hands in the air without a gun. However, the second officer’s body camera does not appear to capture Johnson at that moment. In a statement released Thursday, the family also says an eyewitness saw Johnson "unarmed with his hands raised above his head surrendering himself to Garriga," adding "it is clear that Jamee was killed while surrendering to law enforcement."

The state's investigation mentions a similar account by an eyewitness named Kevin Haynes, however, the report dismisses his account as unreliable and contradicted by the body cam footage.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE  

Credit: Courtesy: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office
JSO released images from the night Jamee Johnson was killed, including what they say was his gun partially uncovered in the passenger's seat.

JSO’s Response to Resistance Board, which also reviewed the shooting, found Garriga’s actions appropriate. But, Johnson’s father believes otherwise.  “Even though he made bad decisions that day, that's not grounds for an execution,” Harvey Johnson said.

First Coast News will livestream Friday’s news on FirstCoastNews.com and the First Coast News app. 

The family says it will formally file suit Friday. 

City and JSO officials declined to comment on the case stating, "We don't comment on pending lawsuits."