On Tuesday, October 22, the law firm of Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt (IMW) held a press conference announcing they will proceed in filing a civil rights/wrongful death suit against the Riverside Sheriff's Department after excessive force resulted in the death of Raymond Johnson. Managing Director of IMW, Rickey Ivie, Rodney S. Diggs and Antonio K. Kizzie along with the Johnson family met with press and media to discuss the case.
"Mr. Johnson was beaten by several Riverside law enforcement officers and died as a direct result of the severe head and bodily injuries he sustained during an approximate 10-minute beating," said Ivie during the press conference.
On Friday, October 11, Johnson, 41, was in the drive-thru exit at a Burger King located at 23125 Hemlock Ave. in Moreno Valley when 6 to 7 Riverside Sheriff's pulled up began to forcefully remove Johnson from his 2012 Black Chevy Cruze. Multiple witnesses report and captured footage of deputies hitting Johnson with their fists, batons, kicking, tasing and stomping him—so much so that Ivie stated a boot imprint was left on his chest.
"Mr. Johnson was unarmed," said Ivie. "We stand here today with Mr. Johnson's family, his children and his parents as we're in the process of filing a lawsuit in order to seek justice and vindication for Mr. Johnson's family—a family who has lost a father, husband and son, who was unjustly taken away from them.
"Our objective is to hold the officers accountable for the excessive force used during the incident, which led to Mr. Johnson's death and to bring closure for his family."
When asked about autopsy results the Sheriff's department released allegedly revealing that the injuries Johnson sustained during the altercation didn't cause his death and revealed he had enlarged heart, Ivie replied that the "assessment is totally inaccurate.
"We have had an independent autopsy performed and that autopsy shows unquestionably that Mr. Johnson died as a result of the beating—primarily from the severe head injuries, which demonstrate there were several lethal blows.
"That [first] autopsy was not correct."
When asked about the footage that hit the internet from multiple witnesses at the site, Diggs stated that it does help their case but there is room for further evidence.
"We believe that it helps but at this point, we're still investigating," said Diggs. "We do not have all the facts… the Youtube video… does show in the beginning, the officers beating Mr. Johnson with a baton at least seven or eight times and then you also see one of the officers stomping on Mr. Johnson, which is consistent with the autopsy report… which shows the footprint left in his chest."
The graphic incident, which was posted on Youtube, shows officers trying to get Johnson out of his car. The deputies continue to struggle getting Johnson out of the car while other deputies arrive and based on the footage, pull Johnson out of his car on the passenger side. The altercation is then obstructed by the car but an officer can be seen stomping on the other side of the car.
As far as to why the deputies were trying to apprehend Mr. Johnson or what resulted in his fatal beating, nothing has been revealed. The current situation suggests Mr. Johnson was minding his own business, buying food for his family. It was stated that the Sheriff's report claimed Mr. Johnson was holding onto his back seat and kicks were administered to force him to let go.
"We believe that the force that was used against Mr. Johnson was excessive and unreasonable," said Diggs. "As you may know, the force allowed to be used by any law enforcement officer has to be objectively reasonable to overcome the resistance of another.
"In this case, the force that was used against Mr. Johnson was not objectively reasonable. They used deadly and lethal force, which resulted in his death."
The Johnson family was advised not to speak to press and were observably shaken by the accounts of their family member's ordeal and death. Raymond Johnson's wife , Lawanda, acted as the pillar of strength and support of the family before and during the press conference. They are standing in support of each other waiting for justice on behalf of their loved one. Johnson was a father of five and had one grandchild.
"We believe law enforcement is an essential component of our community and that most law enforcement officers conduct themselves in a reasonable, honorable and professional manner," said Ivie. "However, when individual officers who are trusted to uphold the law, violate a citizen's rights, use excessive force and cause the unjustifiable death of a citizen, those officers must be held accountable."
"We believe that we do have a solid case, however it's still premature" said Diggs. "It's still early, so the investigation is still continuing and we won't know all the facts until we file the lawsuit and litigation actually begins."