Family of Jada Johnson, woman killed by Fayetteville officers, takes grievances to General Assembly

Monique John Image
Friday, June 30, 2023
Family of Fayetteville woman killed by police takes case to lawmakers
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Jada Johnson's family says they are taking their grievances with the NCDOJ to state lawmakers through a petition.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Jada Johnson's family is taking a new approach in demanding justice for her after she was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Fayetteville almost a year ago.

The family said they are taking their grievances with the North Carolina Department of Justice (NCDOJ) to the General Assembly through a petition. This was prompted by the NCDOJ's decision in May not to bring charges against the officers involved with Jada Johnson's death.

Rick Iwanski, Johnson's grandfather, accuses State Attorney General Josh Stein of violating Johnson's constitutional and statutory rights and succumbing to racial bias and political pressure in deciding not to charge the officers. Iwanski said he wants this petition to send a clear message to the DOJ, the Cumberland County DA's office and the police that they're being held accountable.

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"We're trying to inhibit the behavior. And by showing that we're really getting involved and we're talking about it and we're bringing it up to the relevant authorities, particularly the General Assembly," Iwanski said. "It's hopefully putting pause on these officers on what they're doing."

He also claimed the state attorney general is giving police officers unequal protection, favoring them in deadly use-of-force cases. Through this petition to the General Assembly, the family is asking for an investigation into the circumstances of Johnson's death, as well as the actions of the state attorney general's office, the Cumberland County DA's office and the Fayetteville Police Department.

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"They could do a couple of things with this," Iwanski said. "They could take it and read it to the assembly in session. And at that point, they can table it, say later, or they could send it to a committee now or they could take it and reject it altogether. I do not believe they will. And if they do, I will resubmit one until they give me an answer. This is my right ...They cannot ignore it. They can reject it. But they cannot ignore it."

Iwanski and his family stressed that they are not seeking punitive damages by taking this petition to the General Assembly. They say their bottom line is that they want a thorough investigation of their case and of the local and state agencies that have been involved with it so far.

The NCDOJ issued a response to the petition saying:

"Ms. Johnson's untimely death was a tragedy and her family has Attorney General Stein's deepest condolences. He has urged Fayetteville Police Department to conduct a sentinel event review to better understand and learn from this case."

Johnson was armed and apparently having a mental health crisis when she was shot and killed by Fayetteville police officers who responded to a reported home break-in. No evidence of a break-in was found.

She produced a handgun and began threatening to harm herself, officers at the scene said. Officers tried for about an hour to de-escalate the situation and get her to put the gun down.

After about an hour, officers tried to wrest the weapon away but the struggle went to the ground, and an officer then fired their service weapon, striking Johnson.

"This is a tragic situation," Assistant Police Chief James Nolette said the next day. "It escalated very quickly."