UPDATE: Officer Cleared in January 2012 Fatal Shooting

By: Stephen Johnson, Meghan Dwyer
By: Stephen Johnson, Meghan Dwyer

The Integrity Task Force was formed in 2010, a year after Mark Barmore was shot and killed by two Rockford police officers.


It's made up of dozens of officers from around the county. They investigate potential criminal activity that may have occurred in connection with a police shooting.


The task force then submits a report to the Winnebago County State's Attorney--who decides if the shooting was justified.

Jan. 30 Update: ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Rockford Police Officer Amado Soria has been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Grand Jury.

Authorities say he was justified in using deadly force in a shooting that killed Phillip K. Johnson, Jr., who was 29.

Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato and the Winnebago County Taskforce concluded Soria followed proper protocol when he shot Johnson two times in the chest after Johnson refused to put his hands over his head in a traffic stop.

The two other people in the car never faced charges. They were pulled over after police got reports of shots fired near San Jose club on State Street. The 911 caller said suspects got into a blue Pontiac and drove away.

At the time, police thought there was a gun in the car.

Johnson, who was in the backseat, reached for the car's gear shift and managed to back the Pontiac into a squad car two times. Authorities say Soria couldn't see Johnson's left hand when he shot, and he thought Johnson was grabbing at something in the back seat.

Police found a loaded, stolen handgun on the floor of the back seat, along with a bottle filled with cocaine. That gun was not the gun fired earlier in the night, but it did have Johnson's DNA on it.

Police say Johnson was a known gang member.

Soria remains on desk duty, but will resume his normal job as soon as possible.

Rockford Police Officers on the Task Force recused themselves from the investigation and outside officers filled in. Three external "use of force" experts also reviewed the case.

Jan. 30 Update: ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- We have new developments tonight in the police shooting that left a Rockford man dead this weekend. We now know which officer fired the fatal shot.

The series of events that led to where police shot and killed 29-year-old Phillip Johnson started at Fairview Boulevard and East State Street, where according to police, officers responded to a 911 call for shots fired.

Minutes later in the 300 block of North Longwood, officers, including Amado Soria, say they stopped a vehicle that fit the description of the one involved in the 911 call: a 4-door sedan, which Johnson was a passenger in, along with a female driver and another male occupant.

Police have not released their details of what led to the shooting, but witnesses we spoke to on Saturday tell us police blocked in the vehicle here in this parking lot and saw multiple officers surrounding the car with guns drawn.

Those who saw the scene unfold say the driver then put the vehicle into reverse, slamming into the police car that was blocking them in. moments later, the drivers side door opened and a female driver was pulled from the car leaving the two male passengers remaining inside.

By this time, witnesses say approximately six officers had the vehicle surrounded, leading the male passenger in the front seat to open his door and slide out on his stomach, surrendering to police.

The focus then turned to Johnson who was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle. Witnesses saw the 29-year old move his arm slightly after leaning towards the passenger side of the car and that's when Soria opened fire, shooting and killing Johnson.

Ssoria is an 18-year veteran. The Winnebago County Integrity Task Force will be investigating the shooting to make sure the officer acted appropriately.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- On January 28, 2012, Rockford Police Officer Amado Soria was involved in an on-duty shooting incident.

The shooting incident occurred in the 300 block of North Longwood and resulted in the death of Phillip K. Johnson.

Officer Soria is an 18-year veteran of the Rockford Police Department. He will be placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of the investigation being conducted by the Winnebago County Integrity Task Force.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- According to police, officers responded to a 911 call of shots being fired near Fairview Blvd. and East State St. in Rockford early Saturday morning and when police stopped a vehicle thought to be involved, that's when things turned deadly.

It happened in the 300 block of North Longwood St. just after 1:30 Saturday morning, where a Rockford police officer shot and killed 29 year old Phillip K. Johnson who was a passenger in the stopped vehicle. Another man passenger was in the car along with a woman who they say was driving, both of whom were unharmed and are being question by police.

A handgun was recovered from the vehicle according to the report. The officer who opened fire and the others on the force who witnessed the shooting have been put on administrative leave by the department. Police are not releasing the details of what led to the shooting.

"Most police officers don't go through a deadly force incident so it traumatizes not only the affected officer, the backup officer and the department as a whole. So our thoughts and prayers go out to the officer and his family and the deceased and their family", says Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson.

The Winnebago County Integrity Task Force is heading the investigation.

It's something Jennifer Murphy will never forget: seeing a man shot and killed by police right outside her window.

"I heard three gunshots in rapid succession, one right after another and then I didn't see any movement from the victim”, says Murphy who witnessed the scene.

According to police, officers responded to a 911 call of shots being fired near Fairview Blvd. and East State St. early Saturday morning, leading police to pull over a car that fit the description of the vehicle involved in the 300 block of North Longwood St. Murphy says after hearing yelling outside her apartment, she saw a car blocked into a parking space by a police vehicle in the parking lot adjacent to her window with several officers with their guns drawn.

Murphy says, "All of a sudden the vehicle went into reverse really fast and ran into the back of the squad car."

Moments later, the situation turned deadly. Murphy says a female driver and male passenger left the car, leaving a third occupant as the only one remaining, a Rockford man in his late twenties.

"I could see his upper arm to about his elbow...he was leaning [slightly towards the passenger side], and I saw his arm move just a little bit", says Murphy.

That's when Murphy heard the three shots from the officer's gun, killing the man. According to the police report, a handgun was located in the vehicle following the shooting. Witnesses we talked to, including Murphy, say after hearing what was communicated between the officers moments before shots were fired, they question the department's account.

The names of the policeman and the victim are being withheld until family can be notified of the situation.

Are you confident that the Integrity Task Force will give a fair and unbiased judgement?

You must be logged in to post comments.

Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:

Read Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by confused by ignorance on Feb 8, 2012 at 06:19 PM
    I don't understand where peoples comments come from sometimes....u want to be protected so when a menace gets shoot we have an uproar. I suggest u position to have ur neighborhood a” no police zone.” Perhaps then u will be better off due to ur fear of the police. I, myself, refuse to live in a world where people are ALLOWED to illegally carry a weapon, illegally district property, and illegally flee from the police. They have a job to do, just like u. Unfortunately, their job sucks because of the people they have to deal with. And then the other crapthey have to deal with AFTER doing their job. I fear for u fools that fear the police. When u decide that u no longer want safety in ur area for u and ur children, u want gun toting thugs to rule ur streets, and u want to feel uncomfortable in ur own home...let me know. I will gladly take more chops in my neighborhood because it makes me feel safer.
  • by Tim Location: Rockford on Feb 1, 2012 at 05:38 AM
    Well, according to the update during the news last night, either Mr. Johnson was not as innocent as some people claim, or he had severe issues which caused him to forget his name and birthdate as well as try to flee any time a police officer wanted to talk to him.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 31, 2012 at 08:12 PM
    Well said Dale!
  • by just say'n Location: rfd on Jan 31, 2012 at 07:27 PM
    glad the officer is mexican no way i wanted to see jesse jackson back here..and i am african american and saying this. its a sad situation. but dont think this cop is losing his badge anytime soon. #inside knowledge.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 31, 2012 at 11:32 AM
    IT DOESN'T MATTER IF THE GUN WAS HIS OR NOT! It was in the car, just as easily accessible to all three suspects in the car. Have you not heard that you are responsible for the items in the car you are in?!
  • by Dale Doback on Jan 31, 2012 at 10:32 AM
    I think we can all agree that it's a sad day when a life is taken. Nobody knows the entire story, but based on the facts that we do know, there were 3 people in the car. 2 of them are alive today for obeying orders given, even AFTER disobeying. They were stopped for whatever reason, and they tried to run, crashing into a police car. Did the police open fire immediately? No. Could they have? Yep. The driver got out of the car, the passenger got out of the car. Unfortunately, this young man didn't want to obey the orders, like his accomplices did. Let's be honest, when guns are drawn, you should make every attempt to keep the office from firing. Sudden movements, keeping the hands hidden, not obeying orders, are all things that will lead a cop to believe that his/her life is in danger. I pray for the victims family, the officers involved, and the officers families. They are truly the innocent victims of this unfortunate event.
    • reply
      by Dave on Feb 1, 2012 at 08:22 AM in reply to Dale Doback
      Well stated. The only thing that I will add is that there were two people in the car lucky to get out alive. You know he could have made the choice for all 3 of them.
  • by Seriously Location: Rockford on Jan 31, 2012 at 10:08 AM
    My "terms" grow up and weak minded and insecure where statements. You are making assumptions based on hear say. I did not at anytime call you or anyone out of name, or talk negatively about you or anyone based on these post on this page. But you have! You are directing all this anger and hate at a person you know nothing about. You only know what you have heard, and decided to pass judgement from that. I look at the words you, yourself have written and simply state my feelings from what I see. Do get the difference? You hear things or see things that have passed from persons to person (hear say) and pass judgement. I, on the other see first hand what you have written and state my feelings. Like I said a sin is a sin PERIOD!
    • reply
      by Dave on Jan 31, 2012 at 12:09 PM in reply to Seriously
      Innacurate but Ok if it makes you feel better.
  • by Dave Location: Rockford on Jan 31, 2012 at 09:43 AM
    The person arrested in the 21oo block of Kilburn avenue last night is the reason people with guns get shot. Thank you Rockford Police Department for arresting this person who was armed with a pistol that just robbed a store. Lets see he fled on foot after hitting (2) cars and (1) person and was not complying yet he was not shot. So all you on here bashing the Rockford Police Department go read the article in the Register Star and then tell me all they want to do is shoot someone.
  • by Nieci Pooh Location: Rockford on Jan 31, 2012 at 08:15 AM
    On my first comment,the I's are supposed to be u's!Also speaking out of ignorance is completely out of order.I knew him n jus because he had a background doesnt mean he deserved to b killed.The gun was never displayed to any of the officers,thats why the situation is so mind boggling because he didnt pull the gun,or point the gun at the officers.Also just because the officer was hispanic doesnt mean race wasnt involved.Not the first time they killed an innocent man and im sure its not gonna b there last!How am I supposed to feel protected when the ones who are supposed to protect n serve are the ones who are killing us?The Rockford Police Department is an organized gang.Period.Too many lose there life for it to be no justice.Also u never know who reads your comments some of you that are judging him on prior accurances involving police.This was a brutal crime n justice needs to b served.Rest N Paradise.
    • reply
      by Tim on Jan 31, 2012 at 01:12 PM in reply to Nieci Pooh
      OK, once again Nieci Pooh, how do you know for a fact that the gun was never displayed? That he didn't pull the gun or point it at the officers? Were you there? Were you one of the two individuals who fled the car? You may have known the gentleman, but it is clear from your friendship and your prejudices towards police in general that you are not a fair and unbiased source. Is the lifestyle that believes all people of color are thugs any different than the lifestyle that believes all police are criminals/racists/organized gangs? Justice will be served, but you probably won't like what the results are.
  • by Nieci Pooh Location: Rockford on Jan 31, 2012 at 12:42 AM
    This is going out to Dave.Your comments r based on pure ignorance. U dont know anything about the victom so what u say really means nothing.U claim your tired of using the race card,but look how many times u said something thats race related.Im sick n tired of everytime the police kill someone its justified n they were doing there job which is not true.U make an assumption from color n u are totally wrong on what I said.I dont know him to know if he was a thug,he was out that late because he had just left a party.Im guessing you've never been at a party or a bar real late ever?Be serious. A mans life was takin on a mistake of an officer,n how dare u glorify the situation as if many didnt jus lose someone close to them because he moved his arm. Shame on you.How would u feel if it was someone im your family?Or on the other hand,how would u feel if it was a caucasion individual?Different wouldnt u?Cn as they always get away with killing an African American,its raising concerns in the black community of our safeness n well being in our own town.So to all of u who judge and dont know,keep your comments to yourself,u can really hurt someone by your words.Rest N Paradise n I hope justice is served for this avoidable shooting.Have a nice day!
    • reply
      by Dave on Jan 31, 2012 at 05:28 AM in reply to Nieci Pooh
      Lets see pooh... A hispanic officers shoots a black non-complying suspect. How is that racism. Also the ignorant person is the one that does not comply with police at 1:30 am with a pistol in the car. That person is now dead. I guess continual run ins with the police make you a chior boy in this town. In most places it makes you a thug. Please tell me where the mistake was made by the police officer.
    • reply
      by Tim on Jan 31, 2012 at 06:48 AM in reply to Nieci Pooh
      Nieci Pooh, you wrote a post in an attempt to bash Dave as a racist, yet you turn around within the same post and play the race card; which doesn't even factor in because the officer involved was not caucasian. So you lose all credibility there. And if you know the shooting was a mistake and it was completely the officer's fault, as you claim in your post, please provide the facts that lead you to this claim. If not in this section then definitely to the police investigating this. No, I believe you do not know the facts and are simply (and blindly) following along with the whole police are evil racists line that unfortunately always seems to pop up whenever a person of color is shot.
23 WIFR 2523 North Meridian Road Rockford, IL. 61101 Business: 815-987-5300 Fax: 815-965-0981 News: 815-987-5330 Fax: 815-987-5333
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 138254804 - wifr.com/a?a=138254804
Gray Television, Inc.