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No 'issues or deficiencies' found in training, policies in fatal shooting of Dion Johnson: DPS internal investigation

DPS says Trooper George Cervantes is still a DPS employee and that he's currently on "industrial leave."

PHOENIX — A newly released DPS report shows their findings in the death of Dion Johnson, the man who was shot and killed by a trooper last May.

The Department of Public Safety confirmed last week their internal investigation into Trooper George Cervantes was complete after refusing to comment on the status of the investigation in March.

A copy of the report obtained by 12 News reveals DPS' findings in the shooting investigation:

  • No policy or procedure issues or deficiencies noted.
  • No training issues or deficiencies noted.
  • No equipment issues or deficiencies noted.

In the early hours of Memorial Day 2020, Cervantes drove up on his agency motorcycle to a parked car blocking part of Loop 101 near Tatum.

The stop would ultimately lead to Cervantes shooting and killing the man in the driver's seat of that car, Johnson, whose name would become the center of protests in the Valley along with George Floyd's. Both men were killed on the same day.

Back in May, when Cervantes went up to the driver's side window, he said he saw open containers of alcohol and a gun in the suspect’s car. 

Cervantes told investigators he removed the gun and went to arrest Johnson for a DUI. When Johnson woke up, he tried to fight back. 

Cervantes said he feared he'd be pushed into traffic, so he fired his weapon twice.

At the time DPS didn’t have body cameras for any of their troopers, but ADOT had traffic cameras and responding officers from other departments had body cameras that captured the moments after the shooting. 

Other responding agencies did have body cameras, including footage from a Scottsdale police officer that shows Cervantes and another responding trooper rendering aid to Dion Johnson.  

Cervantes told the Scottsdale officer he fired two shots and the second one must have "grazed" Johnson.

Johnson's family and attorney at the time voiced concern over the lack of footage showing exactly what happened.

Earlier this year, DPS said 150 of their troopers were equipped with body cameras for a trial run. A spokesperson said 75 troopers statewide had cameras from Axon and 75 from Watchguard. The trial period will likely go through the end of the fiscal year, which ends in June.

Gov. Doug Ducey has called for all troopers to be equipped with body cameras. Funding for cameras for all troopers is part of ongoing state legislation and the state's budget proposal.

At the time of the shooting, Johnson had a misdemeanor warrant out for his arrest. Records say Cervantes didn’t know who Johnson was or his history before the shooting.

Records released from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office show details about Johnson’s prior arrests, including allegations of fights with his family and assaulting an ex-girlfriend.  

Johnson also served prison time for armed robbery and aggravated assault. Johnson was also listed as a "known gang member."

As a trooper, Cervantes has his own record with DPS. In his 15 years with the department, documents show there were thirteen complaints filed against him. Some were unfounded, but he was disciplined for others, like using his DPS taser on his family’s dog.

In September, County Attorney Allister Adel announced her office wasn't pursuing criminal charges against Cervantes. 

DPS says Cervantes is still a DPS employee and that he's currently on "industrial leave," but did not elaborate on what that means.