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Mother of D.C. man killed by Virginia officers who suspected him of shoplifting demands 'the truth'

Police chased and fatally shot Timothy McCree Johnson at the Tysons Corner Center shopping mall in Fairfax County.
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The mother of the Washington, D.C., man who was suspected of shoplifting and was fatally shot by two officers last week says her son was unarmed and is demanding that "the truth" come to light.

Timothy McCree Johnson, 37, was a father of two who loved fashion and clothing design and wanted to go to barber school to get his life back on track after having served time, said his mother, Melissa Johnson.

He had previously pleaded guilty to theft and assault charges and had been convicted on federal gun charges.

Timothy Johnson with his two children.
Timothy Johnson with his two children.Courtesy Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson is trying to piece together the events that led to his death Wednesday, but so far, police have released few details.

“We just want to know what happened. We want to know the truth,” Johnson said.

She called out police for speculating about whether her son had a gun and "villainizing him" before the investigation was complete.

Police said Monday, “The search of the area has concluded and no weapon was found."

Johnson said: “He made a mistake. But at some point those who are sworn to protect and serve should not have the right to be judge, jury and executioner at the same time.”

What happened before the shooting

Loss prevention officers responded to the Nordstrom at the Tysons Corner Center shopping mall in Fairfax County, Virginia, about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday for a report of a man suspected of having stolen designer sunglasses, police said.

County Police Chief Kevin Davis said last week that two department officers — one uniformed and another in plainclothes — approached the suspect, who fled, and chased him on foot. 

Timothy Johnson ran through the parking garage and lot into woods as “the officers gave him commands to get on the ground,” police said. 

“While in the wooded area, two officers discharged their firearms, striking Johnson in the chest one time,” police said. Johnson was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.

It’s not clear what led the officers to open fire. 

“At some point during that chase, something happened that is still under investigation that prompted our two Fairfax County police officers to discharge their firearms," Davis said last week.

Melissa Johnson is seeking more transparency.

"I just thought it’s so strange that you don’t want to say the officers’ names. You don’t want to give details. You don’t want to admit that you didn’t find a weapon. But you begin to start painting this picture to villainize [Timothy's] name,” she said.

Davis initially said last Wednesday that he didn’t know whether Timothy Johnson had a gun. Five days later, police revealed that no weapon was found.

“My son didn’t have a gun. He did not harm any patrons at the mall. ... He didn’t have a knife. He probably didn’t even have a cellphone on him,” Melissa Johnson said.

Davis said Johnson had an extensive criminal history and was “very well known” to law enforcement in the area.

His mother said her son did have a criminal history — but not in Fairfax County.

“He did jail. He did his time. But even just to villainize his story, villainize the integrity of the investigation before it even gets underway, was just harmful to the family,” she said.

Timothy McCree Johnson had no cases in Fairfax County, according to online court records. 

In Maryland, he had several charges, mostly traffic citations, over the years.

In 2003, he was charged with second-degree assault and theft over $500 and pleaded guilty, and he was sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison, according to online records. In 2015, he was given a 90-day suspended sentence and three years' probation after he pleaded guilty to theft of less than $100, online records show.

In federal district court in Washington, D.C., in 2006, he was convicted on felony gun charges — possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition — online records show. In that case, he was sentenced to 4.6 years of incarceration, followed by three years of supervised release. 

Where the investigation stands

The officers involved in last week's shooting have not been publicly identified. They were described as seven- and eight-year veterans assigned to the Tysons Urban Team. Department policy says their names will be released within 10 days of the incident.

They have been placed on restricted duty status pending the investigation.

A criminal investigation into the use of force is being conducted by the Major Crimes Bureau. An administrative investigation is also underway by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, and there is also an independent review by the Office of the Independent Police Auditor, which reviews police investigations involving use of force and complaints against the Fairfax County Police Department.

Body camera video of the incident will be released within 30 days, according to department guidelines. 

A father trying to 'find his footing'

“Timothy was my first child, my only son,” Johnson said. “This was a person who was loved, who was a father, who was a brother, who was a cousin.”

Timothy Johnson.
Timothy Johnson.Courtesy Melissa Johnson

He had a 12-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. 

Johnson said her son was "trying to find his footing."

"He had some demons. He had some things from the past. He has been to jail before. He did his time," she said. "I even feel like societywise we just need to do better to support people. He needed to be in some type of daily maintenance program or something that could give somebody returning home from prison some support and accountability."

She said that her family has “suffered a lot of tragedy and loss” but that she is grounded by her faith in God and hopeful for the truth to come forth.

"That's my only prayer, that the undoctored, unadulterated truth will come to light and they will accept responsibility that protocol wasn't followed, procedure wasn't followed," Johnson said. "From the moment somebody was made aware that something was stolen to this end result — does the end justify the means? It does not."