A Florida police officer was finally arrested and charged more than five months after he shot an unarmed Black man in the back of his head in a deadly case of mistaken identity.
Titusville Police Officer Joshua Payne on Wednesday was seemingly given a sympathetic charge of manslaughter for last year’s brutal killing of James Lowery despite the local medical examiner’s office ruling that the shooting was a homicide. Payne’s race and ethnicity are respectively listed as “white” and “Hispanic” on the probable cause affidavit.
Lawyers representing Lowery’s family said in an email to NewsOne that Payne’s charges were a step in the right direction toward accountability. However, they also stressed that the 29-year-old officer must be convicted to have any semblance of closure to yet another instance of preventable police violence.
Bodycam footage from the shooting has still not been made public and state law prevents Payne’s mugshot from being shared with the media.
Lowery, 40, was shot the day after this past Christmas after he may have been racially profiled while Payne was responding to a report of a physical attack on Dec. 26, 2021. Payne said Lowery fit the description of the reported suspect. When the officer approached, Lowery fled. Payne gave chase and fired off his Taser at Lowery, who kept running toward a fence. As Lowery began to scale the fence, so did Payne, still holding his Taser in his right hand and service weapon in the left, before firing off a single gunshot. Lowery was struck by the gunfire in the back of his head and pronounced dead on the scene.
As it turns out, Lowery was unarmed and not involved in the physical attack police responded to.
Payne’s mother previously told Florida Today that police were light on details when officials finally told her about her son’s killing days later.
“My son got killed that Sunday, the day after Christmas, and that following Tuesday, the chief came to my home and said he was very sorry. But they didn’t tell me anything,” Linda Lowery-Johnson said in April. “I feel like they should talk to us, tell us, so I can see what happened with my son.”
Civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson, who has been retained in the case, said she told Lowery’s family about Payne’s arrest and charges on Wednesday.
“They just broke out in tears,” Jackson said before adding: “The mother still doesn’t know about what happened in this case. There are body cams and we want to see that.”
The Brevard County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Lowery’s death a homicide.
Payne was released on a $15,000 bond shortly after he was arrested and booked on Wednesday.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Payne about a month after submitting its investigation’s findings in the case. State Attorney Archer ultimately recommended manslaughter charges against Payne, resulting in his arrest Wednesday.
According to a press release from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announcing Payne’s arrest, “Manslaughter is the killing of a human being by an act, procurement, or gross culpable negligence, without lawful justification. This includes recklessness or lack of care when handling a dangerous weapon. The statute can also be proven if the defendant used excessive force during self-defense, or defense of another.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing Lowery’s family, said Payne needs to pay for his deadly actions.
“Officer Payne targeted, stalked, tased, and shot James in the back of the head despite the fact that he wasn’t involved in the case that was being investigated, wasn’t armed, and was in no way threatening the officer,” Crump said.
This is America.
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