Authorities released audio recordings and body cam video last week related to an officer-involved shooting in Lufkin, Texas, of a man caught stabbing another man.
The Lufkin Police Department released the material after a grand jury found that Officer Blake Witherspoon, a six-year veteran of the force, acted appropriately when he shot at 40-year-old Epthen Johnson.
During the March 1 encounter, Witherspoon had been responding to a frantic 911 call in which the victim, Jose Isabel Rodriguez, can be heard screaming in the background. The caller described him as being “knifed to death.”
When Witherspoon arrived, he found Johnson pinning Rodriguez to the ground and repeatedly stabbing him around his face and neck. Witherspoon yelled at Johnson multiple times to show his hands, but Johnson ignored the commands.
Witherspoon said he feared Rodriguez’s life was in grave danger, so he fired three shots, striking Johnson, who barely even flinched as the bullets hit him. Witherspoon then fired a fourth and final shot, which proved fatal.
A witness who reported the incident dialed 911 again and apologized for his language, saying “the cop had to shoot the one dude who was stabbing him.”
A grand jury determined last week that Witherspoon’s use of force was justified. A toxicology test showed Johnson was under the influence of PCP and marijuana during the attack.
Rodriguez survived the attack.