LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – When Lakewood police shot and killed Littleton dentist Scott Johnson outside their police headquarters on Sept. 20, 2019, they said Johnson had a pistol, was in a physical altercation with his wife, and they believed he might shoot his wife or them. Now, Johnson’s widow, Michelle Johnson, has notified Lakewood police she may sue them for $6 million for killing her husband, even though police indicated they thought they were saving her life.
“There was no need to shoot Dr. Johnson,” said his widow in a notice of claim sent Jan. 23 to the Lakewood Police Department. “He was not a threat to his wife or police officers.”
Her lawyer, Craig Silverman, spoke with CBS4 about the intent to sue, explaining, “she believes someone got trigger happy.”
“This shooting was not necessary,” Silverman said. “Dr. Johnson should be at his dentist practice but he’s not because he was shot dead for no good reason.”
Johnson, 57, and his wife had dinner at a nearby restaurant and had planned to go to the theater that night. But the pair had an argument and ended up standing outside the Lakewood Police Department, arguing about what Silverman characterized as “the sorts of things husbands and wives argue about.”
According to an Oct. 4 email from Lakewood Chief of Police Dan McCasky to his department, the couple were directly outside a police garage and the pair “appeared to be involved in a physical struggle.”
McCasky went on to write, “The male refused to drop the handgun and raised the gun. Agents believed the subject was either going to shoot the female or Police Agents. He was subsequently shot … after refusing commands to drop the weapon.”
However, Silverman now maintains Michelle Johnson was unaware police were nearby.
“She was not aware of the police presence and I’m not sure Dr. Johnson was,” Silverman said. “My client did not feel her life was in danger.”
Johnson and Silverman’s account runs contrary to official reports of what occurred. The Jefferson County Coroner reported Johnson was shot from a distance of 10 to 12 feet.
“He reportedly held his gun under his chin at one point, refused to drop it, and was shot when he raised the gun toward officers,” wrote Dr. John Carver. The autopsy report shows Johnson had alcohol and valium in his system.
In the internal Oct. 4 email, obtained by CBS4, Chief McCasky also wrote that his agents “displayed incredible courage and professionalism in an extremely difficult situation.”
John Romero, a spokesperson for the Lakewood Police dDepartment, told CBS4 he could not discuss the intent to sue notice.
“We are aware of it,” Romero said. “We don’t comment on pending litigation.”
Pam Russell, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County District Attorney, said her office is awaiting more information before issuing a legal decision about the shooting.
Silverman told CBS4 that after more than four months, he believes it’s time for police and prosecutors to release video of what happened and detailed reports.
“It is outrageous for this information to be withheld from the widow and her counsel for over four months,” Silverman said.
Back in October, Dr. Johnson’s sister, Lynda, told CBS4 the couple had only been married for about two months. She said of what happened, “I don’t blame the police at all.” She said her brother had just been awarded a “top dentist” award from 5280 Magazine, but died before he learned of the award. Asked about the recent notice to sue, Lynda said she could not comment.
Dr. Johnson had a general and cosmetic dentistry practice in Littleton and had been practicing in the Denver and Littleton area for 24 years. In 2003, Rotary International awarded Johnson its “Service Above Self” award.