Fried calls for statewide probe into Jacksonville shooting death

Jamee Johnson was shot to death by a sheriff deputy in Jacksonville last December during a traffic stop.
Photo special to the Outlook

News Service of Florida

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has joined others asking the state to investigate the shooting death of 22-year-old Jamee Johnson, who was killed by a sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop in Jacksonville on Dec. 14.

In a letter last Friday to Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, Fried requested a review of the use of deadly force by an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office during the traffic stop. 

“A thorough review by FDLE’s expert special agents and analysts will allay any concerns and bring closure to all the parties involved, the Johnson family, the sheriff’s deputies involved, JSO, and the citizens of Florida,” Fried wrote. 

The sheriff’s office posted a photo of a gun in the passenger seat of Johnson’s car the same day of the shooting. Officer Josue Garriga shot and killed Johnson after an incident that began as a traffic stop, according to the sheriff’s office.

Garriga and another officer involved in the traffic stop are both on administrative leave, the JSO has said. 

Johnson had been enrolled as a business major at Florida A&M University and was living near the Tallahassee campus. FDLE Spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said in an email last Friday that the state agency has offered assistance to the sheriff’s office. 

“FDLE does not have the authority to investigate or assist unless the local agency requests it,” Plessinger added.

Fried’s letter to Swearingen acknowledged that the state law enforcement agency lacks the statutory authority to launch its own investigation unless Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams requests FDLE’s aid.

“However, if you have not already, please offer any and all assistance to JSO and the Duval County State Attorney’s Office (SAO) as they conduct their investigation for presentment to the grand jury,” Fried wrote. As an alternative, Fried, the only Democrat elected statewide, asked Swearingen to conduct an investigation into the findings of the JSO, the state attorney, and the Duval County grand jury, “and present those findings to the Florida Cabinet.”

Last month, members of the Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference with members of Johnson’s family to call on the FDLE to investigate the shooting.

“It’s clear that there are a lot of questions that have not been answered,” Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat, said during the Jan. 30 event at the Capitol.