Grand jury: Billey Joe Johnson Jr. accidentally killed himself

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

LUCEDALE, MS (WLOX) - The grand jury has spoken. Its investigation says Billey Joe Johnson Junior was the only person responsible for his tragic shooting death during a traffic stop last December.

The case has attracted national attention, along with ongoing innuendo and speculation.

Thursday the grand jury answered many of the hanging questions when its report was made public.

The grand jury says the deputy who stopped Johnson for running a stop light, Joe Sullivan, was sitting in his patrol car when Johnson was killed by the accidental discharge of the teenager's own shotgun.

Grand jurors heard from 30 witnesses, including several forensic scientists before presenting their "finding of facts."

Family members arrived first in the courtroom, many wearing special shirts to memorialize Billey Joe Johnson Junior.

The nine page grand jury report, which outlines 15 "findings of fact," was read before the packed courtroom of Judge Robert Krebs.

"After hearing the testimony of the forensic scientists and reviewing other evidence offered as exhibits, the grand jury finds that Billey Joe Johnson Junior's left hand was holding the barrel of the shotgun," said foreperson Regina Graham, reading from the report.

The grand jury said the facts gathered at the scene of the traffic stop showed that deputy Joe Sullivan, the officer who pulled Johnson over that morning, was not involved in the tragic shooting.

"Clearly shows that deputy Joe Sullivan was in his patrol car at the time of Billey Joe Johnson Junior's death," said Graham.

"The grand jury unanimously finds the only plausible and scientific explanation for this incident is that the Sears and Roebuck twelve gauge shotgun accidentally discharged as Billey Joe Johnson Junior was attempting to move the shotgun in the cab portion of his truck," said the grand jury foreperson.

"I think the most compelling evidence was the forensic testing. You had CSI guys on the scene. They collected extensive, extensive evidence on tissue and were able to draw a path outward, of the glass and the blood and the tissue. And an earring that was in Billey Joe Johnson Junior's left ear and imbedded in the door, helped the angle and told them what happened," said District Attorney Tony Lawrence, after the report was read.

"Eyewitnesses to this incident confirm that no struggle or altercation occurred between Billey Joe Johnson Junior and deputy Joe Sullivan," said Graham, during the reading.

The district attorney says the thorough evidence gathered at the scene helped the panel reach its conclusion.

"The angle of the trajectory of the wound. And you have to look at all the evidence. The earring. The tissue and blood matter and things of that nature conclusively proved to the grand jury that, they deliberated and it proved to them it was an accidental shooting," said District Attorney Lawrence.

The grand jury report also noted the autopsy showed no signs of a struggle or physical altercation on Billey Joe Johnson Junior's body.

The only injury was the lone shotgun blast to his head.

In addition, a toxicology report found no alcohol or drugs in Johnson's body.