Phoenix Police fires officer involved in deadly shooting

Phoenix Police officials announced on April 10 that they have terminated a police officer who was involved in a deadly shooting over two years ago.

According to a statement, Phoenix's interim police chief, Michael Sullivan, has "terminated the employment of Officer Jesse Johnson" after it was determined that the shooting he was involved in was out-of-policy.

"The decision was not made lightly but was done after careful consideration of all the facts," read a portion of the brief statement. "The Phoenix Police Department must hold its employees to the highest standards, conduct and accountability."

Officials say Johnson can appeal the decision to the city's Civil Service Board.

Shooting followed rock-throwing incident

The shooting happened in the area of 19th Avenue and Tuckey Lane in September 2022. Officers were leaving the scene of an unrelated incident when their cars were allegedly struck "by unknown items causing damage."

The officers later returned to the intersection, where they found Ali Osman.

"They pulled in to contact this individual. The officer exited his vehicle, the individual continued to throw rocks at the officer. The officer gave commands to stop. One rock was thrown, [and] as the individual was preparing to throw the second rock, that's when the officer-involved shooting occurred," said Sgt. Brian Bower with the Phoenix Police Department.

Osman died at the hospital. Body camera video released by Phoenix Police in the aftermath of the incident shows officers telling Osman to drop the rock before Osman apparently made a throwing motion, and that was when an officer fired on Osman.

"He was throwing rocks," said attorney Quacy Smith, in the days following the deadly shooting. "We don’t shoot people down in the streets that are throwing rocks. It’s unacceptable, and we need answers."

Family members of Osman said he had no criminal history and suffered from bipolar disorder, for which he was being treated. They also said they believe Osman was targeted by police because he was black and a person of Islamic faith.

Members of Osman's family later filed a notice of claim against Phoenix Police, accusing them of Excessive Force in violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Violation of Equal Protection fo the law under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Battery, and negligence. The family was seeking $85 million.

Police union issues statement

In a statement, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Darrell Kriplean said it is "unfair to hold one half of the interaction 100% responsible for the outcome," and that they are appalled at the decision.

The full statement, as released on April 10 reads:

"The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association was made aware of a Media Advisory that was sent out this afternoon regarding Officer Jesse Johnson #11028 and the critical incident he was involved in 2022.

First and foremost, any loss of life to a community member during a police contact is tragic and our officers try to avoid those responses at all costs. But it is unfair to hold one half of the interaction 100% responsible for the outcome.

We have never experienced a police chief take a victory lap by announcing the termination of a police officer, especially when the officer has not been served his final discipline notice, and his due process rights have not been exhausted. 

As a reminder, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office reviewed the intimate details surrounding this use of force incident and cleared Officer Johnson of any criminal wrongdoing. In addition, the department's own Critical Incident Review Board (CIRB), which is comprised of 2 community members, 2 peer officers, 1 Commander, and 1 Assistant Chief, unanimously* found this use of force in policy. Interim Chief Sullivan decided not to trust this board’s in-depth review and overturned their finding.

Historically, deviations from CIRB’s recommendations have been rare and articulable. Recently, they have become commonplace and inarticulable. Rather, the decisions have been based on whether the Council made a financial decision to pay out to avoid litigation or how Interim Chief Sullivan has "felt" about a particular incident. 

That is inappropriate, unfair, and quite frankly falls far short of a meaningful analysis of the officer’s conduct. At this point, it is becoming painfully clear that CIRB review has become a disingenuous process that does little more than waste the time of everyone involved.

Each of these deviations sends a clear message to the brave men and women of the Phoenix Police Department: that they are on their own and any decision they make better not involve anything potentially controversial.

We are appalled at Interim Chief Sullivan’s message and his decision to terminate Officer Johnson. This will no doubt have a chilling effect on our membership and their service to the community."

*(In a statement released on April 11, officials with PLEA issued a correction, and said that the CIRB, in a majority decision, found the officer's use of force to be "in policy.")


Phoenix officers fatally shoot man throwing rocks at police and cars; Notice of Claim filed against police

Officers were leaving the scene of an unrelated incident when the suspect was throwing rocks at police officers and vehicles. The suspect was reportedly told to stop, but the suspect did not comply with orders. The suspect was eventually shot, and was declared dead at the hospital.

Where the shooting happened