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Firing officer for killing man at Tysons Corner mall will have 'chilling effect' on department, attorney says

Sgt. Wesley Shifflett is no longer a Fairfax County Police officer after he shot and killed 37-year-old Timothy Johnson last month.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — A seven-year veteran of the Fairfax County Police Department was let go following a deadly shooting at Tysons Corner Center back on Feb. 22. 

Timothy Johnson, 37, was shot as officers chased him from Tysons Corner Center on Feb. 22. Investigators say two officers, identified as Sgt. Wesley Shifflett and Officer First Class James Sadler with the Tysons Urban Team, chased Johnson for allegedly stealing a pair of designer sunglasses from Nordstrom.

The chase, which lasted for about a quarter of a mile, snaked its way through the parking garage, across a parking lot and into a wooded area. Shifflett fired the shot that killed Johnson. 

Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said in a press conference Thursday was "administratively separated" from the department.

"He will no longer be a Fairfax County Police officer," Davis said. “The officer's actions do not meet the expectations of our agency."

Caleb Kershner, an attorney representing Shifflett said Shifflett was following the law when the shots were fired.

“The law on this point is clear. A police officer is authorized—and trained—to use lethal force when he reasonably believes that he is in jeopardy of serious bodily harm or death. And that is exactly what happened in this incident,” Kershner said in a statement.

Kershner said given the circumstances he faced, Shifflett's actions were reasonable. He says Shifflett's firing could have a broader impact on the department as a whole.

“A police officer should never be forced to be shot or seriously injured before he takes action to protect himself or others,” Kershner said. “The law does not require him to be shot at, or to see a gun, before he responds. Any trained and certified officer faced with these circumstances would be entirely justified in responding in this manner. These Monday morning quarterbacking actions by the Fairfax County Police Department are not justified by the law, and they will have a chilling effect on public safety and on the other police officers within the Department.”

Investigators searched for about two days but found no weapon that may have belonged to Johnson at the scene.

FCPD said its Internal Affairs Bureau is conducting an administrative investigation in accordance with policy, along with an independent review by the police auditor. 

The criminal investigation into this use of force incident is being conducted by the Major Crimes Bureau. The results of the criminal investigation will be presented to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

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