FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Nine months after a woman was shot and killed by a Fayetteville police officer, her family is filing a federal lawsuit against the city, officers involved with the shooting and the police department.
An autopsy showed 22-year-old Jada Johnson was shot 17 times from the back.
In a 36-page suit, Johnson’s family is seeking damages as a result of her death. Attorneys for the family say police violated her civil rights when they shot Johnson after she called for help during a mental health crisis.
Johnson was shot and killed by police in her grandparent’s home. Her grandfather, Richard Iwanski, along with his wife and Johnson’s 2-year-old daughter witnessed the shooting.
“You cannot believe that such a thing could happen in our lives and in this country,” Iwanski told reporters during a press conference announcing the lawsuit Friday.
According to that federal lawsuit, Johnson was discharged from a hospital for mental health care on the morning of July 1, 2022. Attorneys say during a mental health crisis later that night, she called 911 fearing her boyfriend was trying to kill her.
“This was a long night of de-escalating Jada. A long night of her being calm and robotic, passive — of her grandparents deescalating the situation,” said Xavier T. de Janon, an attorney with Johnson & Nicholson PLLC, the firm representing the family.
The lawsuit claims Johnson was armed and 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.
An autopsy from the state examiner’s officer showed Johnson was shot 17 times from behind. The lawsuit claims those gunshot wounds came from a single officer.
“What I saw was murder and escalation. There was a total lack of humanity and compassion. Those officers, I’m asking you now, arrest them today for murdering our baby,” said Iwanski.
The lawsuit accuses police of excessive force, wrongful death, and negligent hiring, training and supervision among other things.
CBS17 reached out to the city and police department for a response but has not heard back.
Johnson’s family now calls on the mayor and city council to refuse paying the involved officers legal defense fees with public tax dollars.
“Say ‘We do not condone your behavior. You violated our rules of conduct and we will not defend you’,” said Iwanski.
As this suit makes its way through the court system, SBI is still reviewing this case. They get involved any time an officer fires their weapon.
While the lawsuit could end up in a trial there’s also the possibility a judge could dismiss the lawsuit.