Around lunchtime on a rainy, gray Monday, Germantown’s Jamal Johnson stood at the intersection of Whitaker and Hunting Park Avenues in Juniata Park, with one name on his lips: David Jones.
The 60-year-grandfather said that he had seen enough black youth die at the hands of police officers in this country, that he decided he wanted to do something about it.
Johnson said he was always passionate about civil rights, but he became more involved after he saw the murder of Philando Castile, who was killed by a police officer during a stop in Minnesota last year.
Video of that incident spread online like wildfire and, Johnson said, he was stunned when he found out the officer involved was found not guilty of any crime in the incident.
“I called all the activist organizations I know and asked what they were going to do about it,” said Johnson of the Castile shooting. “And they didn’t know anything.”
Wanting to do more, Johnson said be he began working with the Stop Killing Us Initiative, a North Carolina-based social justice campaign, which eventually led to his plan to march from Philadelphia to Washington D.C.
On Monday, Aug. 28, Johnson expects to arrive at the Department of Justice to call for justice in the recent police shooting of David Jones. Jones who was killed on June 8th after scuffling with Officer Ryan Pownall over a gun in his waistband. Pownall had stopped him Jones after seeing hi riding his dirt bike, and fatally shot Jones in the back, according to the police report.
His goals are on a grand scale: he wants all law enforcement officials nationwide to stop killing people unnecessarily, he said.
“Our thing is that you’ve got to have some humanity in this stuff,” said Johnson. “Treat people the way you want to be treated. Maybe that will stop these killings.”
As Johnson prepared for his march, standing next to strips of yellow police tape remaining from Jones’ killing, he was joined by members of the city’s Black Lives Matter movement – who had disrupted a press conference held by Council President Darrell Clarke earlier that morning – and members of Jones’ family.
Asked about the show of support, Thomas Jones, the father of the slain man, said that the ooutpouring of support since he lost his son, has been “awesome.”
“We didn’t know that we’d get this kind of love,” said Jones.
As the ongoing investigation into Jones’ shooting has been passed to the state’s attorney general’s office, as Clarke announced, Jones said that he hopes the move will lead to justice for his son’s untimely death.
“All anyone ever told us was ‘it’s under investigation,’ that’s all we got,” he said, adding that he’s hopeful the family will get answers.
On Monday, Cameron Kline, a spokesperson for the city’s district attorney’s office said that interim district attorney Kelley Hodge reviewed the case and felt there was an “actual or apparent conflict of interest” and referred the case to the state’s attorney general, who has accepted the referral.
"Because of the circumstances in which Mr. Jones was shot and killed, including conflicting witness accounts and the troubling fact that he was shot from behind, we need a thorough investigation," Clarke said in a statement on the case. “The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has referred this matter to the Office of the Attorney General due to a conflict. ... I am confident Attorney General Josh Shapiro will conduct a thorough and fair investigation into this matter."
A young man who said he was Jones’ brother, but didn’t want to be identified, said Johnson’s march and the support of local activists has meant the world to his family.
“People care and they didn’t even know him,” he said. “They care because, what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. And, that police officer was wrong.”