Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman on Friday announced that her office would not file criminal charges against an officer who shot and killed a burglary suspect in late May.
The decision came after an investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation to determine whether the use of deadly force by Cary Police Officer Andre Jonathan Lopez was justified. In the early morning hours of May 28, Lopez fatally shot Shaquian Tyrone Johnson.
Shortly after the shooting, Lopez told investigators that he fired at Johnson after he heard a gunshot and saw what appeared to be a muzzle flash. At the time of the shooting, police said Johnson was in possession of a stolen firearm.
Friday’s report from the district attorney indicated that Johnson collapsed in an alleyway behind homes on Cumberland Green Drive. The officers found a Rossi .32-long revolver near the alleyway. Officials with the state’s crime lab later found evidence of gunshot residue from Johnson’s hands. Although state examiners did not find Johnson’s fingerprints on the weapon, they found DNA material on the revolver that matched his DNA profile, according to the report.
“Based on all the evidence available, it is the conclusion of the District Attorney that Officer Lopez reasonably believed that his and the lives of other officers were endangered when he shot Mr. Johnson,” Freeman stated in the report.
The events that led to the fatal shooting began at about 3 a.m., when a woman called 911 and told an emergency dispatcher that her granddaughter was startled awake by the sound of someone moving around downstairs inside her home at 218 Firetree Lane, Freeman stated in the report.
The woman told the dispatcher that her granddaughter looked over the upstairs balcony railing and spotted a man in the home with a bookbag. The teen quietly woke up her grandmother, who called the police.
The woman and teen told police that they saw Johnson carrying items away from the home moments before the officers arrived. When Johnson saw the police, he took off running and left behind a car registered in his name, Freeman reported.
Over the next two hours, police secured Johnson’s car and tried to find the suspect in the Prestonwood community. Three officers, including Lopez, were walking in the neighborhood and had climbed up an embankment near Creek Park Drive, where they saw the dome light of a vehicle through a row of bushes, Freeman reported.
While approaching the vehicle, the officers reported seeing Johnson leaning inside and going through its belongings. The officers announced their presence and ordered Johnson to show his hands, but he took off running. Lopez reported that he heard the gunshot and saw the muzzle flash as Johnson was running, Freeman reported.
Lopez, thinking Johnson was firing at the officers, fired several shots. Another officer reported that he saw Johnson turn back to the officers as he was running away, Freeman reported.
Johnson suffered four gunshot wounds, including two to his face near his lips, one in the left arm and one in his left back. The gunshot wound to the back proved to be fatal after the bullet went through Johnson’s left lung, striking a pulmonary artery and lodging in the middle of his chest, Freeman reported.
The revolver police found near the alleyway where Johnson collapsed held six shots. There was a fired casing at the “12 o’clock” position, and the weapon still held five unfired rounds in the chamber.
Police later talked to the owner of the vehicle they found Johnson leaning in. The owner told police that he kept the gun in a large plastic cup in a compartment along the driver’s side door. Johnson’s fingerprint was found on the front passenger side door of the vehicle. The vehicle’s door was still ajar after the shooting, and there were no signs of forced entry, Freeman reported. Investigators also found four shell casings near the vehicle in the driveway of the home, Freeman reported.
Lopez’s service weapon was a .45 Sig Sauer, semi-automatic handgun that held eight rounds. Investigators found one unfired round in the chamber and three more in the weapon’s magazine, Freeman reported.