Deputy sheriff not indicted in shooting

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 21, 2003

[7/19/03]Warren County grand jurors reviewed and did not return an indictment in the case of a Vicksburg man fatally shot by a county deputy sheriff.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office presented evidence in the Oct. 26 fatal shooting of Jimmie Taylor II, who was 22, by Deputy Sheriff Lionel Johnson, 27.

“After consideration of all the evidence and testimony which was presented to us and after being instructed on the applicable law, we find that Lionel Johnson justifiably acted in self defense in the shooting of Jimmie Taylor II,” the panel wrote in its report, which it delivered Friday to Warren County Circuit Court Judge Isadore Patrick.

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The “no-bill” of the case means that fewer than 12 of 18 grand jurors voted that criminal charges should be brought against Johnson in the case. Grand juries meet in private and consider only the state’s evidence.

The investigation grand jurors reviewed was performed by a division of the state department of public safety, of which the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol is also a part.

The grand jury’s decision means that an internal sheriff’s department review of Johnson’s conduct can begin, Sheriff Martin Pace said.

“I have made a request of the investigating agencies, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, to provide my office with their independent investigative files so that we may now complete the administrative review of this case,” Pace said.

“An administrative review is an internal process in which we review the conduct of the officer to determine if the actions complied with our departmental standards.”

Johnson remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of the review, Pace said. He was not arrested or charged in the case.

The case was scheduled by District Attorney Gil Martin to go before this year’s two prior grand juries, which met in January and May, but was postponed until this week.

The first delay was made because witnesses were identified who had not been interviewed and not all evidence-processing results had been received from the state crime lab, Martin said. The second was because the family preferred that an outside agency present the case, Martin said.

Attorney Marshall Sanders, who has represented the Taylor family, was not available.

The shooting happened outside the Taylor home, 4808 Halls Ferry Road, during a Saturday night birthday party for Taylor’s younger brother. Initial reports indicated that Johnson and another deputy responded to a 911 call complaining that cars were parked in the two-lane road near the house.

Reports on what happened next differed. Johnson has said the situation got out of control and that he was assaulted by Taylor and others. Call logs showed he pressed the “officer in trouble” button on his hand-held radio.

Family members and witnesses said Taylor was handcuffed and on the ground when he was shot.

Johnson’s attorney, David Sessums, said scientific test results supported his client’s position.

Neither Johnson nor Sessums was available.

The grand jury called the investigation that was presented by a team headed by Lee Martin of the attorney general’s office, “thorough and independent.”

“We heard testimony from several witnesses including the Mississippi Highway Patrol investigator, members of the Taylor family, the two Warren County deputies who first responded to the Taylor residence on the night of Oct. 26, and one of the individuals who was attending the party that night,” the panel said in its report.

“In addition to those individuals personally appearing before us, we were presented with the testimonies of numerous witnesses who were present on the night of Oct. 26, 2002. The grand jury was also provided the scientific evidence which was obtained during the investigation, including the results of the autopsy performed on Jimmie Taylor II, and the tests performed by the Mississippi Crime Lab.”

The grand jury closed its report by saying, “We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the Taylor family for the tragic loss of Jimmie Taylor II.”

“Our prayers continue to go out to the Taylor family and Officer Johnson and his family,” Pace said.

Cases involving three other defendants were also no-billed by this week’s grand jury. With charges that were no-billed, they were:

Mark Thomas Horton, 19, 665 Kirkland Road, robbery.

Carl William Stribling, 68, 1665 Warrenton Road, molestation.

Leon Woodland, 18, 279 Spout Spring Road, robbery.9