Benjamin Crump: Arrest of officer in fatal shooting ‘an important step toward getting justice’

Shouts of “No justice! No peace!” rang through the rain in front of the Vassar B. Carlton Historic Titusville Courthouse Friday afternoon, as family and friends of a man fatally shot in late December 2021 gathered two days after the arrest of the Titusville Police officer charged in connection to his death.

Photo by Florida Today – Craig Bailey

“It took almost six months for them to finally bring charges against this officer,” said nationally recognized civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who led a news conference in front of the courthouse. He debarked a plane in Orlando not long before his appearance.

“This … may be one of the first times that a police officer has been charged for killing a Black person in Brevard County, so we acknowledge that as an important step toward getting justice for James Lowery.”

Titusville Police Officer Joshua Payne, 29, turned himself in Wednesday to the Brevard County Jail Complex on a charge of manslaughter in connection to the Dec. 26, 2021 shooting death of 40-year-old James Lowery. Payne bonded out hours later.

Photo by Florida Today – Finch Walker

The fatal shooting happened in the early evening hours of Dec. 26 after 911 callers reported a man was attacking a woman along South Deleon Avenue in Titusville. Payne, one of several officers responding, attempted to stop Lowery for questioning, later saying he fit the description of the reported suspect.

Lowery had been heading home to his mother to celebrate Christmas and ran from Payne.

Payne pulled his Taser and used it on Lowery as he chased him, shouting, “Drop it, drop it, get down,” before Lowery removed a small bag from his pocket, dropped it and ran toward a fence in a residential yard.

Investigators with FDLE said he had been carrying a small bag of narcotics and that he dropped it as he ran.

Payne pulled out his gun and held onto it and his Taser as he climbed the fence after Lowery, according to FDLE. At some point, he fired off a single round and struck Lowery in the back of the head, records show.

Lowery had no weapons, FDLE said.

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Photo by Florida Today – Finch Walker

Crump, joined by attorneys Natalie Jackson and Stephen Hart, and Lowery’s mother, Linda Lowery-Johnson, stood among the crowd of about 25 friends and family members.

Crump said after more than five months of waiting, this was a step in the right direction.

“We acknowledge the (state) attorney for doing his job and saying that it’s going to be about equal justice and that the police officer isn’t going to be above the law just because he has a gun and a badge,” Crump said. “This is just a first step. What we want is a conviction.”

Jackson, the Orlando-based civil attorney who is representing Lowery’s family, said the family is relieved at Payne’s arrest.

“They had tears,” she said. “That was it — tears, because now, they know that something happened to their child. But they don’t exactly know what happened to Mr. Lowery.”

She said it’s important to view the body cam footage and she’s waiting for a meeting with State Attorney Phil Archer to view the footage.

Though Payne was fitted with a body cam, the Titusville Police Department has withheld the body cam footage from the public. Titusville police said in a statement that they will complete an internal investigation within the next week, after which, evidence in the case, including body cam footage, will be released.

“You have a family who is left with questions for six months of what happened,” Jackson said. “It’s not fair to defame these victims in the media without showing full transparency and all the evidence.”

Lowery-Johnson said she wants a conviction against Payne.

“I want justice for my son,” she said.

Payne, who was hired in July 2020, is on unpaid suspension pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation at the Titusville Police Department. Police issued a statement saying the agency will complete the internal investigation within the next week. 

A trial date has not been set.

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