Today, appointed Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel announced that she has determined there will be no charges filed against DPS Trooper George Cervantes, who shot Dion Johnson to death during a traffic encounter on May 25, 2020, in which Johnson was found asleep at the wheel and an unrecorded struggle ensued, ending with Johnson shot, handcuffed, and deceased.

You can watch CA Adel’s press conference announcing her decision on Facebook (apologies for the odd orientation and poor sound quality) :

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Adel said Trooper Cervantes, “feared for his life because he thought he would lose control of his gun, so he fired his weapon twice, one of those rounds striking Mr. Johnson.”

Adel said she reviewed physical evidence, photographic evidence, and accounts from multiple witnesses about what happened. “This is not a case where we simply took the officer’s word at what happened,” she said. Troopers at the scene of the shooting, including Cervantes, were not equipped with body-worn cameras, and Adel called this a “concern.” She announced her support for body-worn cameras for all police in Arizona.

The case was reviewed by DPS internal affairs and the four-person civilian review board, the reports of which were considered before Adel made the final decision not to charge.

Adel took pains to point out that her decision did not preclude, nor comment on any civil remedies that Johnson’s family may pursue against DPS or Troops Cervantes.

Julie Gunnigle, the Democratic nominee for Maricopa County Attorney, released the following statement on the announcement from the County Attorney Adel not to prosecute the officer.

“We will never see equal justice under the law so long as County Attorneys like Allister Adel politicize prosecutions and fail to uphold their obligation to the Constitution. Her decision today was an act of cowardice and the family of Dion Johnson deserves better. We should all demand swift reforms that require transparency, accountability, and community partnerships to ensure this never happens again.”

I don’t claim to know what course of action is appropriate in this case, I don’t have access to the evidence and testimony leading to CA Adel’s decision today, but it seems very likely that her decision will become a key issue in the coming General Election contest for the Maricopa County Attorney post between Gunnigle and Adel.

This post will be updated once an announced press conference by Gunnigle this afternoon becomes available.

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