On Wednesday, June 1, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced the arrest of Joshua Payne, a Titusville Police Department officer who fatally shot James Lowery, 40, on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021. 

A Florida officer was arrested last week on manslaughter charges for the killing of an unarmed Black man he shot in the back of the head during a chase. Reports state the cop misidentified the deceased, a day after Christmas 2021, believing he was a suspect in an assault nearby.

On Wednesday, June 1, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced the arrest of Joshua Payne, a Titusville Police Department officer who fatally shot James Lowery, 40, on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021. The 29-year-old cop erroneously believed Lowery fit the description of the suspect from an earlier attack on a woman during the holiday weekend.

Florida Today reports Payne responded to a 911 call, like the rest of his colleagues, about a violent assault that happened on South DeLeon Avenue.

Payne is said to have locked in on Lowery immediately. An investigation by the FDLE investigation and the State Attorney’s office reported he believed the man matched the description of the attacker. The officer chased Lowery after he ran away from the officer when he attempted to question him. 

Authorities say Payne pulled his gun when Lowery threw something over a fence, and s Lowery climbed over it Payne tased him before shooting the unarmed man with one single round in the back of his head.

It was later determined Lowery was not the man who attacked the woman.

In May, FDLE filed the results of their investigation, which led to the manslaughter charge from the State Attorney’s Office.

Titusville police reported they could not carry out disciplinary action on Payne nor could they complete its investigation until FDLE’s investigation was finished. Now that the outside agency’s report is completed, the local law enforcement entity will complete its internal investigation and then release the footage, it has announced.

Todd Brown, a spokesperson for the Brevard-Seminole state attorney’s office, said in a statement obtained by Atlanta Black Star, the officer was charged with manslaughter including “recklessness or lack of care when handling a dangerous weapon. The statute can also be proven if the defendant used excessive force during self-defense or defense of another.” 

The Winter Park native posted a $15,000 bond within hours of him turning himself in for the charges and was released from the Brevard County Jail Complex shortly thereafter.

Natalie Jackson, an Orland-based civil attorney, will represent Lowery’s family. Helping Jackson on the case will be civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. 

Crump’s office released a statement from the co-counsels saying, “We are encouraged by the State Attorney’s decision to file charges against Officer Payne for his deadly actions, but we will not stop fighting until there is a conviction.”

NEWS ALERT: @AttorneyCrump & co-counsel Natalie Jackson release a statement on the filing of manslaughter charges against Titusville Officer Joshua Payne for the death of James Lowery – who was unarmed and not a suspect in the case Payne was investigating. pic.twitter.com/EyPYZ7pIIH

— Ben Crump Law, PLLC (@BenCrumpLaw) June 2, 2022

“Officer Payne targeted, stalked, tased, and shot James in the back of the head despite the fact that he wasn’t involved in the case that was being investigated, wasn’t armed, and was in no way threatening the officer,” the statement continued. “Officer Payne’s actions, as laid out in black and white in the affidavit, were nothing short of criminal.”

“Nothing will bring James back to his family and loved ones, but we can bring them a measure of justice by holding Officer Payne accountable. And today’s charges bring us one step closer.”

Jackson said she spoke to the family, his mother, and sisters, and “they just broke out in tears.” 

She continued, “My thought is that we should be cautiously optimistic. The mother still doesn’t know about what happened in this case. There are bodycams and we want to see that. [Lowery] was shot in the back of the head and that should not have happened.”

At a press conference about Payne’s charges, one of Lowery’s sisters spoke tearfully about her brother. As the crowd shouted, “Justice for James,” Johairi Brown said, “I came here from Michigan, ’cause I don’t live here. I don’t know what goes on in Titusville, Florida. But what I know has happened is that I don’t have a brother anymore.”

She continued. “[James] is my baby brother. He will always be my baby brother … even though he was 40, he is still my baby brother.”

The mother of the victim took to the press to draw attention to the case in April, capturing the attention of Crump, a champion of the underdog.

Linda Lowery-Johnson said, “My son got killed that Sunday, the day after Christmas, and that following Tuesday, the chief came to my home and said he was very sorry. But they didn’t tell me anything.” 

“I feel like they should talk to us, tell us, so I can see what happened with my son.” 

No trial date has been set for Payne.

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