Phoenix – On Monday, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced that there is not evidence to support criminal charges against Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper George Cervantes in the death of Dion Johnson, which occurred on May 25, 2020.
In response, Johnson’s mother, Erma, announced she is planning to file a notice of claim against the state.
“As County Attorney, I must make difficult decisions,” said Maricopa County Attorney Adel. “Mr. Johnson’s friends and family have suffered a great loss. I know they grieve for the death of their loved one and there is nothing I can say, or do today, that will change that. Please know that these decisions are not made lightly, and they are not, and never should be, made in haste or without empathy. The announcement today is not an easy one, but as County Attorney, it is a decision that I must make and so I strive to make the right decisions for the right reasons – no matter how difficult they may be.”
Adel also called for all uniformed officers who interact with the public to have body worn cameras. Neither of the DPS Troopers who responded to this call were wearing body worn cameras.
“When trying to determine what happens after an event like the one that ended in the death of Mr. Johnson, more information is always better – better for prosecutors – better for the public – and better for anyone who is committed to keeping our community safe,” said the County Attorney. “Given the importance of these types of events where life and death decisions are made, having this additional information for those of us who must sit in judgement of someone’s actions, is good public policy. It is time for stakeholders to come together to make body worn camera deployment a reality across Arizona. As County Attorney, I pledge to use this office to advocate for the resources and funding needed to make this a reality.”
“In Arizona, a person is legally justified in the use of deadly physical force if the person reasonably believed the force was necessary to protect their own life. Under our law, if there is any evidence to support a self-defense claim, we as prosecutors are required to prove-beyond a reasonable doubt- that the person did NOT act in self-defense. That is something that cannot be done under the facts of this case. Instead, the evidence in this case shows that the Trooper was attempting to effect a lawful arrest of an impaired driver who was passed out asleep behind the wheel of a car with the key in the ignition, stopped on a busy freeway. While attempting to make that arrest, Mr. Johnson resisted and fought with the trooper…and Trooper Cervantes reasonably fearing for his life…shot and killed Mr. Johnson. And while this is a tragic outcome, criminal charges against Trooper Cervantes are not warranted,” concluded Adel.