The DPS Trooper Who Killed Dion Johnson Wasn’t Wearing a Body Camera. Now the State Has Received 150 of Them.

police officer wearing a body cam writes a citation

By Jessica Swarner

October 1, 2020

The governor said his original plan to equip troopers with body cams fell through due to the pandemic. 

Gov. Doug Ducey announced Wednesday that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) is receiving a donation of 150 body cameras to equip state troopers. 

The news comes after a trooper not wearing a camera fatally shot Dion Johnson on the Loop 101 in north Phoenix at the end of May. 

Ducey had tried earlier this year to get enough cameras so the nearly 1,300 state troopers in Arizona could be outfitted with cameras. He requested $5 million from the Legislature to buy the devices and video storage equipment, as well as hire 20 people to handle the data.

The request fell through when the Legislature adjourned early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Ducey said he plans to make the same request next year. 

“Increasing public trust and keeping our state troopers safe are issues on which we can all agree — and we plan to move forward on this good idea,” the governor said in a press release

DPS has not yet said who supplied the 150 cameras, which troopers will receive them, or when they will start wearing them. 

A fatal shooting with little information

Trooper George Cervantes shot and killed 28-year-old Dion Johnson on May 25. Cervantes and the backup officers who arrived at the scene were all not equipped with body cameras. There was also no dashboard camera footage available because Cervantes was riding a motorcycle. 

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel announced Monday she would not file charges against Cervantes, saying she couldn’t prove he did not use lethal force in self-defense. 

The lack of firsthand video makes it difficult to clear up discrepancies among accounts of the incident. Cervantes and some witnesses said Johnson struggled with the trooper despite commands to calm down, while others said they did not remember Johnson attacking Cervantes. 

Arizona’s Family was able to catch some of the scene using footage from an Arizona Department of Transportation camera, but the TV station had only started recording the video after Cervantes shot Johnson. 

Adel said she would like to see all law enforcement officers equipped with cameras to help in these cases. 

Johnson’s killing sparked protests throughout Arizona, leading the governor to instate a weeklong curfew. Johnson’s family has said they plan to sue the state for wrongful death. 

The incident happened the same day George Floyd died in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

READ MORE: Where the Defund the Police Movement Stands in Arizona


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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