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'We need answers': Family of man fatally shot by Ventnor police last month still waiting on body camera footage
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'We need answers': Family of man fatally shot by Ventnor police last month still waiting on body camera footage

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VENTNOR — “We were supposed to see the body camera footage a month ago,” Sarah Johnson said Thursday. “I feel like, at this point, they’re taking advantage of our family. They killed an innocent person.”

Johnson’s cousin, 30-year-old Amir, was shot and killed Aug. 6 during an encounter with police near the city’s border with Atlantic City. Officials allege he advanced on officers with a broken glass bottle.

Steven Barnes, spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said in an email Wednesday evening the investigation is ongoing.

“The Attorney General’s outreach staff has been in contact with Mr. Johnson’s attorneys and with his family, including Mr. Johnson’s parents and his siblings, to discuss the investigation process and other important details,” Barnes said. “The family is aware that the video from the incident (will be) shared with them and be made available to the public.”

The Press of Atlantic City submitted an Open Public Records Act request shortly after the shooting for body camera footage of the incident, but it has not been released.

Sarah Johnson and her sister, Natasha Cameron, said Thursday that Amir’s family is still waiting for answers they feel are long overdue.

“They’re all trained to do the proper thing,” Johnson said. “This is crazy. Give us the footage that you know that we’re entitled to.”

A state records custodian said in an August email that officials would try to comply with the Attorney General’s directive mandating a 20-day turnaround for footage of fatal incidents involving police. However, the custodian later said the agency anticipated footage to be released on or before Sept. 25.

Few details about the incident have been released by officials. A news release from the Attorney General’s Office shortly after the killing gave a rough timeline of the incident.

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At 4:16 p.m. Aug. 6, Ventnor and Atlantic City police responded to a 911 call reporting a man behaving erratically near Wellington/West End avenues, according to the release.

When officers got there, Amir Johnson, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was walking in and out of the marshy area along the road, holding a broken bottle, officials have said. Officers tried to engage him and offer help, but he refused to comply with their commands, including requests to drop the bottle.

Johnson continued to walk back and forth on the road, where officers had stopped traffic, according to the release.

About 4:30 p.m., he “advanced on officers” with the broken bottle in his hand and multiple officers fired their weapons, according to the release.

Johnson was fatally wounded, officials said. He was taken to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, where he was pronounced dead.

Sarah Johnson said Amir was in Atlantic City with friends, a break from mourning his fiancée, who had recently died of a drug overdose. She wonders why police didn’t use less forceful methods, or even fire a warning shot, she said.

“There were many ways you could have handled that,” she said. “The fact is you just blatantly murdered him with six bullets like an animal. I don’t care what the excuses are. That was not OK. He’s a human being.”

The family has set up an online fundraiser to offset lawyer fees and court costs, as well as for transportation and medical expenses. The GoFundMe, titled “Justice for Amir Johnson,” has so far raised just shy of $1,000 of its $20,000 goal.

“We need answers and we need justice now,” Johnson said.

Since 2015, the Attorney General’s Office has required independent investigations of deaths that occur during an encounter with a law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or when a death occurs while a suspect is in custody.

In January 2019, it became law for the Attorney General’s Office to conduct the investigations.

Contact: 609-272-7241

mbilinski@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressMollyB

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Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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