WPD officer indicted in use of force investigation


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington Police officer has been indicted on two charges related to a use of force investigation involving a teenager.

A New Hanover County grand jury this evening indicted Cpl. James Coley Johnson for simple assault and failure to discharge duties. The charges stem from an incident involving Tyrell Rivers, 16, earlier this year.

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“Justice was served on behalf of Tyrell,” said Lytonya Alston, Rivers’s mom.

In court today prosecutors say Johnson put his hands around Rivers’s neck in the back of Johnson’s patrol car. The incident was caught on camera, but the video has not yet been released.

Rivers’s family said they couldn’t have been happier with the grand jury’s decision.

“That’s a step in the right direction,” said Robert Campbell, a family friend and pastor for the Wilmington Ministerial Alliance. “The fact that it’s going to a trial, to me that’s the process at work, and I’m glad that they saw enough there to say that we need to take another look.”

This afternoon Johnson’s attorney Mike McGuinness argued to a judge that Johnson should have the opportunity to testify before the grand jury about what happened, including that he was using police pressure point techniques to subdue Rivers.

Prosecutors argued three fellow WPD officers were set to testify that what they saw in the video was not approved technique. Judge Phyllis Gorham denied Johnson’s motion to testify. A short time later, the grand jury heard the evidence and indicted Johnson.

A judge released Johnson on a $5,000 unsecured bond. His next court date is set for Aug. 11.

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