A Lufkin Police officer has been no-billed in the March shooting death of an aggravated assault suspect.
The incident involving six-year officer Blake Witherspoon was presented to an Angelina County grand jury Tuesday, resulting in a no-bill, according to a Lufkin Police Department press release. A “no-bill” means the grand jury concluded that Witherspoon acted appropriately and that they saw no grounds to indict him on a criminal charge.
Witherspoon shot and killed Epthen Johnson, 40, of Lufkin, in the early morning hours of March 1 in the 400 block of Kurth Drive following a 911 call from a witness who saw Johnson attacking a man; the witness described the scene as a man being “knifed to death.”
Witherspoon arrived to see Johnson crouched on top of the man, stabbing and cutting at his head and neck. Witherspoon commanded Johnson multiple times to show his hands, but Johnson did not acknowledge the officer’s presence and continued stabbing at the man.
“Recognizing the signs of PCP intoxication, (Witherspoon) did not believe a Taser would be an effective tool in stopping Johnson’s attack,” the press release stated.
Witherspoon fired three shots, but Johnson continued making stabbing motions at the man’s throat. Witherspoon then fired a fourth shot, ending the attack.
Johnson’s toxicology report confirmed that he was high on PCP and marijuana at the time of the attack.
Police Chief Gerald Williamson thanked the jurors for their service.
“It is clear to me in this circumstance that the grand jury was diligent and thoughtful and made the appropriate determination,” Williamson said in the press release. “An officer’s desire is always to save life and prevent injury, but a sad reality is that we sometimes have to take lethal action to preserve or protect the lives of others.”
Per department policy, Witherspoon had been reassigned to the criminal investigations division pending grand jury action. He will return to patrol next week, the press release stated.
As the officer’s body cam and in-car video is no longer considered evidence by the Angelina County District Attorney’s Office, the police department has released the video on its Facebook page.
The Lufkin Police Department has had four officer-involved shootings in the past 30 years.
Vicky Camarillo’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.