Cleveland Police Officers Cleared in Fatal Shooting of Armed Suspect Recorded by Body Cameras

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Four Cleveland police officers were cleared of wrongdoing in a fatal shooting that was captured by their body cameras. (Credit: WJW)

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Four Cleveland police officers on Saturday were preparing to return to field duty after an investigation cleared them of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of an armed man.

Four Cleveland police officers were cleared of wrongdoing in a fatal shooting that was captured by their body cameras. (Credit: WJW)
Four Cleveland police officers were cleared of wrongdoing in a fatal shooting that was captured by their body cameras. (Credit: WJW)

The incident, which was recorded by the officers' body cameras, occurred on the evening of March 11.

Theodore Johnson and his wife, Juliette Johnson, were at their second-floor home in the 6900 block of Ottawa Avenue, where the man "was drinking and engaged in verbal abuse of Mrs. Johnson throughout the evening," according to a letter written by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty and sent Tuesday to Cleveland Police Chief Calvin D. Williams.

The husband allegedly brandished a firearm and threatened to shoot his wife and their landlady, who lived downstairs.

After waiting for her husband to fall asleep, Juliette Johnson fled the home. Having forgotten her phone, she went to a police station and reported the alleged threats.

Officers David Muniz, John Lyons, Michael Surtz and Timothy Hannon responded to the residence about 8:50 p.m., according to prosecutors. They were joined shortly afterward by Officers John Jarrell and Brandon Melbar.

As Muniz and Hannon approached the Johnsons' home through a stairwell, "Mr. Johnson jumped out of his apartment and rapidly fired two shots at Muniz, striking him once in his ballistic vest," McGinty's letter stated.

The officers retreated and joined their four colleagues. Johnson then came down the stairs and, as footage from their body cameras shows, faced the policemen while holding his gun at his side.

In a recorded verbal exchange that lasts about a minute and a half, the officers implore Johnson to drop the weapon.

"I'm shooting," he says at one point. "I'm dying."

Muniz tells him: "I know you shot me but I'm not going to shoot you."

When Johnson raised his gun toward the patrolmen, he was shot by Surtz, Jarrell, Lyons and Hannon, according to the prosecuting attorney, who later determined the shooting was justified.

"The officers in fact showed remarkable restraint and went above and beyond their duty to seek a peaceful end to a situation that would likely have been deadly to at least one officer were it not for his ballistic vest," McGinty wrote.

A grand jury was presented with the case and declined to indict the officers who opened fire. Surtz, Jarrell, Lyons and Hannon had been removed from field duty pending the outcome of the investigation.

They were expected to resume their normal duties on Monday.

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