New court documents reveal the city of Fayetteville has been dismissed as a defendant in a federal civil lawsuit brought against it by Rick and Maria Iwanski, the grandparents of Jada Johnson, who was fatally shot 17 times by a Fayetteville police officer in the Iwanskis’ home in July 2022.
Johnson’s grandparents, who witnessed her killing, said Fayetteville Officer Sgt. Timothy Rugg tackled Johnson, and Officer Zacharias Borom shot her 17 times, killing her in front of her family.
Johnson, a 22-year-old Black woman, was the mother of an infant daughter who was also in the house when she was shot. Johnson was experiencing a mental health crisis when she was shot, family and police have said. The federal lawsuit was filed by her family in April 2023.
The Iwanskis are seeking financial compensation from the city for the death of their granddaughter after the state said it would not file criminal charges against the officers involved. The plaintiffs claim the city of Fayetteville was negligent in hiring and training the officers who contributed to Johnson’s death.
Officers Rugg and Borom remain defendants in the case, and the judge has directed the remaining parties in the suit “to confer and file a proposed discovery plan.”
The discovery plan, which was previously paused on Aug. 2 as the court considered the city’s motion for dismissal, is a process in a lawsuit where each party is allowed to exchange information with the other party, including documents, witnesses and expert testimony. A discovery plan typically precedes a trial.
According to documents released Friday, Judge James C. Dever III of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina granted the city dismissal as a defendant on the grounds of “governmental immunity,” a legal doctrine that protects governments from being sued for certain types of actions.
When CityView reached out to Rick Iwanski for comment Monday, he said he hadn’t yet heard that the city had been dismissed from the case. He said he planned to speak with his attorney immediately following the conversation, adding that he was “very disappointed” to learn the city had successfully petitioned to be cleared from the case.
“I’m very disappointed, particularly in the situation that has been happening in our community,” Iwanski told CityView. “Police brutality, police excessive force, misrepresenting the intent of these traffic stops — the numbers have been rising against people of color.”
“In Jada's case,” Iwanski continued, “the city of Fayetteville was totally negligent in their approach to the situation, as represented by the Fayetteville Police Department.”
The news of the city’s dismissal comes after Fayetteville police officer Dillon Hoke shot and killed DeMarcus Brodie on Thanksgiving, an incident that has renewed debate around police accountability and racial bias in Fayetteville, especially pertaining to racial disparities in traffic stops and mental health. The expanding Office of Community Safety (OCS) has been proposed by advocates and some city council members as an alternative public safety approach for people experiencing mental health crises, and officials have said in recent weeks the search for an OCS director is nearly complete.
Reporter Evey Weisblat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.