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Report, bodycam footage released in 'justified' fatal police shooting of 17-year-old

The report finds that although Kwame Jones was an unarmed passenger, his accidental shooting was justified because another passenger aimed a gun at the officer.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Body worn camera footage from the "justified" January police shooting of 17-year-old Kwame Jones was released Friday, along with a report that, for the first time, details what happened that night. 

According to the State Attorney's Office investigative summary, "On January 5, 2020, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Officer Nicholas Lawson attempted to perform a traffic stop on a stolen car. The car fled at high speeds, hit another car and then ultimately crashed into a concrete pole of a pedestrian overpass. When Officer Lawson approached the suspect vehicle, the backseat passenger pointed a rifle at him. In fear for his life, Officer Lawson opened fire, wounding the backseat passenger who pointed the firearm at him and killing the front seat passenger, Kwame Jones."

The report identifies the man accused of aiming the gun as Joseph Carter, 18, who was wounded in the incident. It identifies the driver as Bobby Whitty, 18, who fled. Jones, who was in the front passenger seat, was unarmed. (Both men were arrested on related charges and remain in custody.)

Those details were not initially provided by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. The description police provided was that "some sort of exchange took place and [Officer Lawson] ended up firing his service weapon several times." 

According to the State Attorney's Office, the fact that Jones was unarmed does not change its determination that the shooting was justified.

"The fact that Jones did not point a firearm at Officer Lawson does not change the analysis or conclusions about Officer Lawson’s actions," the report states. "Under the theory of transferred intent, the unintended killing of Jones was justified under these circumstances, due to Carter’s decision to point the firearm directly at Officer Lawson. The Florida Supreme Court has explained that “[i]f the killing of the party intended to be killed would, under all the circumstances, have been excusable or justifiable homicide upon the theory of self-defense, then the unintended killing of a bystander, by a random shot fired in the proper and prudent exercise of such self-defense, is also excusable or justifiable.”

You can read the full report here.


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