A Harris County grand jury on Friday declined to indict a sheriff’s deputy for the 2020 fatal shooting of Missouri City resident Joshua Johnson.
“As with all officer-involved shootings, we presented all of the evidence to a grand jury and gave parties the opportunity to come forward to testify,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
“The grand jury handed down a no-bill, declining to charge anyone with a crime. We appreciate the grand jurors who considered this case, and we respect their decision,” she added.
[SEE DEFENDER ARTICLE JUNE 25, 2020 ARTICLE ON THE JOSHUA JOHNSON CASE: https://defendernetwork.com/news/justice-for-joshua-johnson-family-community-want-answers/]
According to the DA’s office, the case was thoroughly and independently reviewed by the Civil Rights Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, which went to the scene of the shooting the morning it happened, and also hired a ballistics expert.
However, James Hudson, spokesman for the Johnson family, strongly disagrees. To the news of Officer Tu Tran, the officer whoshot and killed Johnson, not being indicted, Hudson said, “Simply unbelievable.” He also announced that community members who have been advocating for “Justice for Joshua” since he was killed on April 22, 2020 will convene at a press conference on Saturday, May 1 at Congressman Al Green’s office. The press conference will take place at 1pm.
Hudson complained last year that law enforcement was extremely slow to interview neighbors who heard the shooting and called police. Hudson then conducted his own investigative interviews of neighbors and found that their account of the events leading up to and following the shooting of Johnson by Officer Tran were vastly different than the statement given by a police spokesman.
At issue is exactly where the shooting took place and whether or not Johnson approached Tran, who was in a stakeout vehicle, or whether Tran initiatied the confrontation.
Also at issue is where Tran’s vehicle was when the shooting occurred. According to Tran and police, the vehicle was parked under a light pole near where Johnson was house-sitting. However, multiple residents reported that the vehicle was multiple houses away from where Tran reported, thus questioning the validity of his entire story.
In a June 25, 2020 Defender article, Hudson shared his own theory of events on April 22, 2020.
He believes Tran was parked in the vacant lot as claimed by neighbors. While on stakeout in search for a Black male murder suspect from Mesquite, Tran saw Johnson, a Black male, and pursued him. Johnson, seeing a man with a gun and no identifiable police markings chasing him, ran to his right, in the direction of the streetlight, and away from the gunman. Tran shouted only “Stop.” Hudson, who interviewed nearly all area residents about the incident, claims the neighbor living in the house directly to the right of the vacant lot heard, heard someone yell “Stop,” never identifying themselves as police. Johnson was hit at least once, probably while under that streetlight, then ran in the direction of his friend and neighbor Pringle’s backyard, seeking escape.
Hudson, who believes Tran pursued Johnson there and shot him in the back, said, “There’s no way a bullet wouldn’t shoot straight through that garage door unless it first passed through Joshua. Then it just fell on the ground.”
That bullet landed in the driveway of Robert Pringle. Both Pringle and Hudson believe that bullet should have raised enough doubts about the account of events offered by Tran.
“This evidence is important because when you’re out at the street you can see that you literally cannot see this (basketball) pole nor can you see that location (where the bullet hit),” Pringle told ABC13. “So, you have to ask yourself, how does this bullet traverse this distance and get into this location?”
State law mandates that all grand jury proceedings are secret, including what was presented and what was discussed by grand jurors.
Johnson, 35, was shot by Sheriff’s Deputy Tu Tran on a stakeout in the 15000 block of East Ritter Circle at about 6:00 a.m. on April 22, 2020.
The deputy, Tran, was working with the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force to try to find a capital murder suspect from Dallas who was believed to be in the neighborhood. However, the person Tran was seeking on the stakeout was actually arrested that same day 241.8 miles away in Mesquite, TX.
According to the officer, Johnson approached the deputy’s black SUV with his cellphone flashlight and a pistol, later found to be a BB gun. Johnson tapped on the deputy’s window and the officer pulled his gun. The deputy lowered his window and told Johnson to put down his pistol. Instead, Johnson raised the weapon and the deputy fired multiple times from his car.
Johnson ran away but was mortally wounded and died in a nearby driveway. The deputy was not wearing a body camera.
Ogg stressed that the Civil Rights Division probe was thorough.
“Every bit of evidence was presented to grand jurors for their consideration,” she said. “We left no stone unturned; a grand jury is the civilian review board of the justice system and they have the power of subpoena to review everything.”