Documents shed new light on allegations against Wilmington cop


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington police officer has already been indicted on charges related to a use of force investigation involving a 16-year-old. Now drafts of a motion and an affidavit from the DA’s office show the officer choked that teen while the boy was handcuffed in the back of his patrol car.

According to a draft motion, Cpl. James “Coley”Johnson asked Tyrell Rivers, “Do you want to die in this patrol car tonight?” while choking him in the back of his patrol car back in April.

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The documents say Johnson choked Rivers not once, but twice after his arrest.

However in Johnson’s use of force report filed a few days later, he did not mention the use of these tactics, which he later told investigators are approved defensive techniques taught at past in-service and other trainings, the documents show. But the SBI says it interviewed several Wilmington Police training officers, who said those techniques are not approved defensive tactics.

Rivers’s lawyer Katy Parker says dealing with this case has not been easy for the teen.

“Tyrell didn’t choose to be a spokesperson and speaking out against excessive force,” Park said. “It’s something that happened to him. It’s something that happens to a lot of kids in our community.”

A grand jury indicted Johnson in June on charges of simple assault and failure to discharge duties.

Wilmington Deputy Police Chief Marshall Williamson responded to the discovery of the documents on a city e-mail server with a statement.

“We realize that there is pending litigation and court action regarding specific training techniques used by the Wilmington Police Department, therefore we will not make any comment on this matter at this time,” Williamson said.

Assistant DA Temple Barrett sent the draft motion to Johnson’s attorney J. Michael McGuinness and a city attorney to outline her intent to request access to Johnson’s personnel records.

Rivers was arrested the night in question for resisting an officer, trespassing and drug charges. He was convicted of the resisting and trespassing charges and received an 18-month suspended sentence and probation for each. The drug charges were dismissed.

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