BODYCAM: Officer Allegedly Suffers Panic Attack after Firing Shots

Paramedics disarmed the officer as he hyperventilated in the aftermath of the discharge

By Calibre Press  |   Oct 17, 2017


The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office is refusing to answer questions about a deputy who video and court records show opened fire without warning in a mobile home park and later suffered a panic attack while armed.

Sheriff Ron “Hoss” Seals acknowledged in a Facebook post on the agency’s website Monday he purposely did not respond to a USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee query about Deputy Justin Johnson. He cited the newspaper’s story, published on its website Monday, as the cause for his Facebook post.

“We are not free to make public comment on any criminal case until it has been adjudicated,” Seals wrote in the post. “One of the most difficult tasks that I face as sheriff is remaining quiet while public scrutiny and speculation runs rampant.”

Johnson fired seven shots without warning in a mobile home park on Sharp Road in December 2016 and then ran away from two suspects, leaving two unarmed paramedics behind with them, footage from his body camera showed.

Johnson suffered a panic attack four minutes after he opened fire, the video and court testimony showed. A paramedic disarmed him but returned the gun to him while Johnson was still hyperventilating, the video showed. Brian Mullinax, 41, who was unarmed and on the ground when Johnson suffered the panic attack, is facing trial on an assault charge for causing it.

When Cody walked from the yard of the trailer and climbed through a fence into a field, Johnson drew his gun but instead of walking toward her or issuing commands, he ran around another mobile home, blocking his view of her, walked onto Sharp Road and then headed toward the field, the video showed.

Johnson, with help from a paramedic, was trying to handcuff Cody, who was on the ground, when Mullinax, her boyfriend, walked out of a trailer in front of Johnson and, according to testimony, began yelling that he was filming Johnson with his cell phone.

Johnson wrote in his report that he heard a sound behind him and then turned to see an armed suspect on the porch of a mobile home behind him. The video showed Mullinax was on a porch of a trailer facing Johnson.

Johnson issued no warning and fired over the paramedic’s head.

Johnson immediately ran away after firing the shots. When he returned to the location in the field where a paramedic still had Cody on the ground, he yelled at Mullinax, “You drop that (expletive) thing. Do it now.”

Johnson did not mention the panic attack in his report. He remains on active duty. Tennessee has asked to review his personnel file, any internal investigation related to the Sharp Road incident and any use of force reports typically required when a law enforcement officer discharges his weapon on duty. The agency was reviewing the request Monday.

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