Trial Starts in Church Shootout after a Family Funeral

Thank you for reading D.C. Witness. Help us continue our mission into 2024.

Donate Now

On Nov. 16, opening statements were delivered in the trial of non-fatal shooting defendant Saphire Johnson

Johnson, 24, is charged with aggravated assault while armed and assault with a dangerous weapon, among other charges, for her alleged involvement in a non-fatal shooting that occurred on Sept. 28 at the 4000 block of Alabama Avenue, SE. The incident occurred at Johnson’s grandmother’s church funeral after a dispute between family members. Two people, including Johnson, sustained non-life-threatening injuries as a result.

Many family members saw what happened which was also captured by surveillance cameras. 

In their opening statement, prosecutors claimed that a confrontation occurred between Johnson and a relative which rapidly escalated. Then Johnson ran into the street and allegedly began firing at her relative before unintentionally shooting her relative’s wife. The prosecution says Johnson was then shot in the leg by her cousin, who was trying to stop the attack. 

“September 28th was already a day of mourning, and then the defendant’s bullet struck,” the prosecution said. 

Johnson’s defense attorneys, Varsha Govindaraju and Christen Phillips, claimed Johnson was acting in self- defense, saying that she felt “targeted, terrified, and trapped.” They say she intervened when she saw a man threatening to beat his fifteen-year-old daughter; then Johnson was attacked by three men and punched in the back of the head. 

When Johnson thought her life was in danger, she did what she had to do. She did what the law allows her to do,” Govindaraju said, asking the jury to find her not guilty. 

The prosecution claims that Johnson was the aggressor and the first person to pull out a gun. They requested the jury find her guilty of all charges. 

The prosecution’s first witness said Johnson was “like a cousin,” and they knew each other very well. According to the witness, her mother was the individual Johnson shot, and one of the witness’s children allegedly attacked Johnson. The witness stated she heard Johnson and others arguing as they were exiting the funeral. She then heard gunshots and ran behind a car. 

Due to time constraints, the witness will continue testifying when trial resumes on Nov. 20.

Follow this case