Navajo man calls police shooting on reservation ‘unjustified’

Created: 05/01/2014 6:22 PM
By: Kai Porter, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A Navajo man said he was unarmed and running away when an officer from the Ramah Navajo Police Department shot him with a shotgun.

Josh Johnson, 21, is recovering from a gunshot wound to his left arm at a local hospital. He’s facing a long and painful recovery.

Johnson said the shooting happened at his home in Pine Ridge, NM, on the Ramah Navajo Reservation last Thursday evening. He said he and two friends were smoking marijuana inside his house when several officers arrived to arrest one of his friends who was wanted on an unrelated assault charge.

"So I was telling him, ‘They're here for you bro. You just need to go out there and turn yourself in,’” said Johnson. “I couldn’t believe I was saying that but he was really scared and started crying and holding on to me saying, ‘No bro I can't. I don't want to go to jail.’ So out of my own sympathy I just couldn't bring myself to tell him to go out there and turn himself in. So I told him we were going to have to run.”

He said about five officers were surrounding the house. Johnson and his friend bolted out the front door when they thought the coast was clear and the officers were on the other side of the house. The third friend stayed inside.

"Once I ran out the door all I heard was, 'They're running! Boom! Stop!’ In that order," he said.

At first Johnson didn’t know he had been shot and kept running. He said he and his friend split up and he ran to a neighbor’s house where he hid in the front yard.

“My first thought was I didn't get shot,” said Johnson. “I just thought they used a flash grenade or something to subdue us.”

A few minutes later he realized he was bleeding.

“Until I got to a safe distance, a couple houses down, that's when I looked at my arm and saw it was half gone. And I was like, ‘No way! I can't believe this,’” he said.

Johnson said he worried he would bleed to death and collapsed in the neighbor’s driveway. A passerby saw him and called police. He was airlifted to the hospital.

Johnson said he doesn’t regret his actions that night and believes the police officer crossed the line by opening fire when he wasn’t a threat.

"Everything I did, getting shot, and running, it was just out of trying to protect my friend,” he said.

Johnson now wants a full investigation into the officer’s actions. He feels the shooting was unjustified. He said the officer didn’t yell stop, until after shooting him.

"I know I shouldn't have run but they shouldn't have shot me,” said Johnson. “They shouldn't have used live ammo."

KOB tried multiple times to reach the Ramah Navajo Police Department but we were unable to. Late Thursday the FBI office in Albuquerque sent out a statement that said, “The FBI in conjunction with the Ramah Police Department is investigating an officer-involved shooting that occurred on April 24, 2014. Pursuant to DOJ policy, we cannot comment further on the investigation at this time.”

We’ll keep you posted on the investigation.

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