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.
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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.


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