Log in Newsletter

Jada Johnson’s grandfather says city should not pay for defense if officers involved in her death are charged

22-year-old woman was shot 17 times, investigators say; family files lawsuit


The grandfather of Jada Johnson, a 22-year-old woman who was shot 17 times and killed by Fayetteville police officers last summer, has called on the City Council not to provide legal representation for those officers.

The investigation is continuing, and the officers have not been charged with any crime.

Rick Iwanski made his appeal during a public forum at Monday’s council meeting.

Last week, Iwanski and other members of Johnson’s family filed a federal lawsuit against Zacharius Borom, the Fayetteville police officer who officials said killed Johnson. The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, also names the city of Fayetteville and Sgt. Timothy Rugg, another officer who responded to the mental-health call involving Johnson.

“Very soon, you will be asked to make a decision of grave importance,” Iwanski said at Monday’s meeting. “You will be asked to provide taxpayer funds for the defense of the man in this case. We implore you — we the taxpayers — we implore you to refuse these men any relief, comfort or support at taxpayer expense.

“I realize for some of you this is an ethical dilemma,” he continued. “And for others, you clearly cannot allow your constituents to pay for something you personally and professionally find offensive. It cannot be denied that the ethical dilemma goes deep into morality and law, attempting to strike a balance between the two and test the obligations of agency. You have some serious critical thinking to do both individually and collectively, and it won't be easy in this case. I wish you strength and wisdom and a good evening.”

Other residents spoke during the public forum in support of Iwanski’s position.

“It would just be a real disservice to know that our city is supporting officers, as Mr. Rick said, that did not follow what I believe you wanted the officers to follow in carrying out their duties,” said Angela Malloy.

“It is time for all of council to pick a side. Are you going to defend her killer, Officer Borom?” said Lisette Rodriguez, who also has called for an office of community safety, an entity that would, among other things, respond to mental health calls instead of the police.

“Are you willing to go down with the ship and use taxpayer monies to support the recklessness of the Fayetteville Police Department? Or will you renounce these horrifying and disgusting actions and stand up for justice?” Rodriguez continued.

The CityView News Fund is a nonprofit organization that supports CityView’s newsgathering operation. Will you help us with a tax-deductible donation?

The Police Department said in July 2022 that Borom and Rugg have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation of the July 1 shooting.

Court records name Borom as the officer who shot Jada Johnson. 

The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into what led to the shooting in the 2300 block of Colgate Drive. The Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards is also conducting an internal investigation.

Johnson's family has said she was suffering a mental crisis when she was tackled by police officers who were trying to get a handgun away from her. Police said the struggle came after officers spent about an hour talking to Johnson, trying to deescalate the situation. 

Police investigators said Johnson was threatening to hurt herself. Her grandmother, Maria Iwanski, and her daughter La’Naya also were in harm’s way, police have said.

Maria Iwanski has said Johnson was released earlier that day from Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where she had been treated for two days after experiencing mental problems.

Maria Iwanski said her granddaughter got the gun for protection because she was anxious about a toxic situation with her former boyfriend, from whom she had recently split.

Ben Sessoms covers Fayetteville and education for CityView. He can be reached at bsessoms@cityviewnc.com.


Fayetteville, police, Jada Johnson, police shooting