Doris Johnson first saw the store videos of her son getting shot to death 17 days ago. She sees it replay in her dreams every night, the bullets hitting him as he staggers out the store in a shower of shattered door glass.
Police released the videos Aug. 28, hoping to show that they had no choice in shooting DeJuan Colbert as he robbed a Dollar General store in south Wichita on Oct. 30.
They say the videos, and the still-photo screen grabs they released with it, show that Colbert rushed three police officers at the store’s front doors holding a knife. Prosecutors on Aug. 28 announced, based in part on the videos, that the officers were justified in shooting Colbert 15 times.
Johnson sees it all differently. She said it took her 17 days to feel strongly enough about it to make a public statement on Thursday.
She said the video shows cold-blooded murder.
She said she does not see a knife, and that the video clearly shows her son trying to run away, rather than hurt anyone.
“I’ll take this with me to my grave,” she said. “Everyone who saw that video says the same thing: that DeJuan was trying to run, that they don’t see any knife in his hands.”
The store videos show an officer entering the store, gun drawn. It then shows Colbert running toward the officer at the door with an object in his hands. The officer fires when Colbert is only about a foot away, and other officers behind the first one open fire, too. Colbert staggers at the door entrance, and collapses as glass shatters in both doors and cascades down onto the pavement where Colbert falls.
The first officer through the door fired three shots, while two other officers approaching the door fired a combined total of 32 or 33 shots.
An autopsy determined Colbert was hit 15 times by gunfire.
Johnson has said publicly before that she regretted that her son (and another son, Ajalon Johnson, 17) were robbing the store. But she said her son “was in shock” when the officer entered the store and yelled at him.
“His first instinct was to run, and that’s what he did,” she said. “They could have handled it in a different way.”
She said the only object she saw in her son’s hand in the video was the bag of money he was carrying as he tried to bolt out the door. Police “assumed, but never saw” a knife in his hand, she said.
Johnson said it upset her that police released the video to the public, along with a 911 audio recording of the shooting. She said the video is gruesome, and that the public release of it shows that police have no concern for her son, for her or her family.
She said the images from it replay in her head every day and night, and that she cries. She sees her son still alive and moving, lifting his head, for many long moments after the shooting stops.
She said she knows that four other families of people recently shot during confrontations with police have been pressing to learn more about why their relatives died. “I recommend the other four families keep pursuing this,” she said. “God will prevail.”
The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office ruled on Aug. 28 that the three officers were justified in shooting Colbert, 28, who was pronounced dead about a half-hour later at a local hospital.
The report says that an officer observed a steak knife on the ground next to Colbert after he was shot and it contains a photo of a steak knife lying next to the front door.
That office declined comment Thursday about Johnson’s comments.
Police also declined comment, but pointed out what they had said on the day the district attorney ruled. They said they made the video and 911 tape public because the media had requested it, because the release is consistent with the department’s goal of transparency, and that it shows what crime victims endure and what officers have to deal with in such circumstances.
Colbert’s younger brother, Ajalon Johnson, and Kenneth Turner were arrested at the back of the store.
Authorities say Colbert and Johnson robbed the same store on Sept. 25 and the Family Dollar store at 2559 S. Seneca on Oct. 2. Johnson, now 18, has begun serving a prison sentence of 118 months, just short of 10 years. Turner, 30, was sentenced to just less than six years in prison for his role in the Oct. 30 robbery.
Contributing: Stan Finger