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Arizona trooper faces no charges after fatally shooting Black man he found asleep

Trooper George Cervantes killed Dion Johnson after disarming him and finding him asleep in a car.

Justice for Dion sign The Coloradoan

An Arizona state trooper who killed a Black man will not face any charges, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced on Monday (Sept. 21). Trooper George Cervantes fatally shot Dion Johnson in Phoenix on May 25, the same day as George Floyd’s death.

According to police, Cervantes found Johnson “passed out” in his car just past a freeway ramp. The trooper claims he saw beer cans and a gun in Johnson’s car and secured the weapon while he was still asleep. According to Cervantes, Johnson woke up and a struggle ensued, which resulted in him firing two shots at Johnson. The 28-year-old died from his injuries at a hospital hours later.

“... The evidence, in this case, shows that the trooper was attempting to effect a lawful arrest of an impaired driver who was asleep behind the wheel of a car with the key in the ignition while stopped on a busy freeway,” attorney Allister Adel said after announcing there would be no charges. “While this is a tragic outcome, criminal charges against the trooper are not warranted.”

There is no footage of the incident because Cervantes did not have his body camera turned on. However, local news outlet Arizona Family began recording moments after the shooting through their traffic camera feed. According to Atlanta Black Star, an audio clip between Cervantes and a dispatcher recorded the trooper explaining the items he saw in Johnson’s car, 56 second of silence and then: “Shot fired! Shot fired!”

Johnson’s family has questioned the trooper’s account of events and what led up to the shooting.

“How do we go from silence and sleeping, to death?” their attorney Jocquese Blackwell said back in June. “It doesn’t make any sense. There’s nothing on that radio call that makes anyone understand that Dion Johnson was doing anything to cause the officer to shoot him.”

Johnson’s mother Erma has also said that footage she saw showed one deputy kick her son after he had been shot.

“He’s moving and the officer takes his boot and kicks him back down. That’s devastating,” she said.

Johnson’s family also accuses the trooper of not calling for medical backup soon enough. Johnson was handcuffed on the ground and bleeding for six minutes before EMS arrived to the scene. His family believes if he had received medical attention for his gunshot wounds sooner, he could still be alive.

As of last week, Cervantes has remained on administrative leave. Blackwell condemned Adel’s decision not to press charges on Monday, citing the trooper’s troubling history. Cervantes has previously been disciplined for leaving a threatening note on an ex’s car and for using a stun gun on a puppy. However, his past record, Adel said, was not considered in the Johnson case.

With the news of zero charges, Johnson’s family will reportedly move forward to file a civil notice of claim.

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