A Monona police officer will not face criminal charges after a Madison man he was pursuing died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after crashing his vehicle in September, the Dane County District Attorney’s Office said Friday.
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said in a statement there is “no potential criminal court liability” for the officer involved in the death of 24-year-old Elliot Johnson after the Sept. 17 chase that started in Monona and ended in Madison around 11 p.m. Based on investigation findings, it is “clear” the officer did not use deadly force and Johnson’s death “could only have been caused” by Johnson himself, Ozanne said.
The name of the officer was not included in the statement.
The state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, which looked into Johnson’s death, gave its findings to the DA’s Office, including information from the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office, body and squad car camera footage, and an inspection of the scene.
According to Ozanne’s statement:
The officer was east of the Monona Drive exit on the Beltline when he saw a gray Ford Focus, driven by Johnson, traveling west at over 80 mph. The officer pursued Johnson, who got off the Beltline at West Broadway while the officer followed.
Johnson then ran a couple of stop signs and ultimately drove off the road and into a utility pole just after passing the entrance to the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District while being pursued by the officer. The officer pulled up to the crash scene, got out of his squad car and told Johnson, who was alone in the vehicle, to show his hands. Johnson got out of the car briefly, then started going back into the vehicle.
The officer warned Johnson he would use his Taser and moved toward the car as Johnson continued to get back into the car. The officer then used his Taser, hitting Johnson and causing him to fall across the front seats of the car with his feet outside of the front passenger door.
The officer continued to tell Johnson to show his hands while also moving closer to the car. After using the Taser a second time, the officer moved up to the side of the car and is seen in video touching the car with his left hand, while the Taser was in the right hand. After hearing a “pop,” the officer dropped the Taser and ran back to his squad car to take cover and contact dispatch. The officer told dispatch he heard a gunshot, which he believed Johnson fired.
Other officers arrived, and Johnson was taken out of the car and lifesaving measures were performed as paramedics were called.
A loaded 9mm handgun was found on the floor of the passenger side of the car Johnson was in, along with a fired 9 mm cartridge case. An exit hole was found in the roof of the car on the passenger side.
An autopsy found Johnson died from a gunshot wound to the head.
A few days later, some 50 protesters blocked John Nolen Drive for a few hours in response to Johnson’s death and the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, Kentucky.