Fresno family sues city over deadly officer-involved shooting

Police were responding to a disturbance call made by Gerald Johnson's family members and it later turned deadly.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno family is suing the city, claiming their relative was the victim and not the suspect when officers used excessive force.

The lawsuit claims 55-year-old Gerald Johnson was shot and killed by police last year, and family members are calling it an unreasonable use of force.

Officers at the time were responding to a disturbance call made by Gerald Johnson's family members and it later turned deadly.

RELATED: 55-year-old man threatening family members shot by officers in southeast Fresno, police say

According to the police report, officers were trying to arrest Johnson after he assaulted a family member.

They fired once they saw him flash what they believed was a gun.

However, attorneys say family told officers it wasn't a gun, and that the situation should've ended differently.

The lawsuit was filed last Thursday. In it, they called the shooting 'wilful and malicious.'

The shooting happened last March along Gilbert Avenue.

Police reports state officers were responding to a disturbance, later learning Johnson assaulted a relative with a shovel.

They claim family members told them he was under the influence of drugs and had a firearm, before he barricaded himself in a car.

The lawsuit however states family members told officers his firearm was really a BB gun.

Willie Johnson, the victim's brother, says he was speaking with Gerald moments before he was shot.

"He said, 'Tell him to leave and I'll get out, leave the backyard'. I said, 'They're not going anywhere'. Next thing you know, they shot him up," he said.

Johnson broke down as he spoke about the times he shared with his brother, as he described him as a good father and someone you could count on.

"They had plenty of time to de-escalate, to try and reason with him," says attorney Stuart Chandler.

Fresno police officials say they were on the scene for hours trying to reason with Johnson before he brandished a weapon.

The officers involved were put on administrative leave, but have since returned after an investigation.

"There's a lot of bodycam, there's a lot of audio to the case. That investigation has been sent to the Fresno County DA office. We're waiting to hear their findings of their review on that case," said Fresno Police Sgt. Jeff LaBlue.

Police did tell us that the District Attorney's office has yet to receive a coroner's report.

The assistant DA told Action News that "information remains forthcoming and a decision will be made as soon as the investigation is complete."
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