Thursday, a memorial service was held for Dion Johnson, a 28-year-old father from Phoenix, shot and killed by a DPS trooper the morning of Memorial Day. Johnson’s death has become yet another rallying cry for the Phoenix protesters calling out police shootings of young black men.
Inside East Lake Mortuary Thursday, family and friends sobbed as a slideshow played, trying to encapsulate Dion’s 28-years on earth.
His life cut short when he was shot by a DPS trooper Memorial Day morning.
“This officer was not wearing a body-worn camera, and we will never know, objectively, what happened to Dion. We will never know that,” said Jocquese Blackwell, the family’s attorney.
There is also no dash-cam because the officer on a motorcycle and the ADOT cameras don’t automatically record.
All we have is the police account.
The DPS trooper says Mr. Johnson was passed out drunk in his car, which was blocking part of the on-ramp on the Loop 101 near Tatum Boulevard. The trooper says the first thing he did was remove a handgun from the passenger seat of the car and take it back to his car. It is worth noting that Dion Johnson was a convicted felon and not legally allowed to possess a handgun. The trooper also noted open alcohol containers in the car, according to dispatch audio. But the trooper likely never knew Dion’s background, or even name, since the car was a rental, and Dion was not awake to provide his ID or answer questions.
According to Phoenix PD, after the gun is removed, the trooper “noticed Mr. Johnson moving around so he returned to the vehicle and attempted to arrest Mr. Johnson.” That is when the physical altercation began.
An ADOT employee watching Arizona Department of Transportation freeway cameras notes, “that motor unit is fighting with the guy at Tatum.”
The trooper says “shots fired” a short time later.
“There’s no reason for an unarmed man, he was passed out, he was drunk, he had peed on himself for him to be dead now,” said Blackwell.
While relatives gathered to grieve Thursday, complete strangers also came from across the Valley.
“I just came to bring her some flowers and, even though we didn’t know each other, our hearts are still connected, said Brittany Arrona, who drove from Surprise. “It is really emotional…I couldn’t imagine this happening to my son.”
Like so many others, Arrona wants more transparency in the investigation.
“We shouldn’t be here questioning. We should be able to see things, hear things, know exactly the facts,” she said.
“The family is torn apart by this loss,” said Blackwell.
Friday the family will lay the young father to rest in a cemetery and continue pushing to find out what happened in his final moments
“This world has changed. And because things have changed, [the police] need to change. They need to be transparent. They need to be accountable. And we want the information,” said Blackwell.
Earlier in the week, some state representatives called on the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to open an investigation in Dion’s death.
Phoenix police say they won’t release the report until the ‘complex’ investigation is complete. The department also says they have not heard any requests from the governor’s office, despite calls for Governor Ducey to get involved.