Titusville police officer faces manslaughter charge in deadly shooting

A Florida police officer is behind bars following an investigation into a deadly shooting late last year in Titusville.

Titusville police officer Joshua Payne will be prosecuted on a manslaughter charge in the death of James Lowery, 40, shot and killed after a foot pursuit on December 26, 2021. Payne turned himself in to police and was booked into the Brevard County Jail on Wednesday.

Officer Payne and other officers were investigating a 911 call of domestic violence when the shooting incident occurred. The officers responded to an area along Gayle Avenue after receiving a tip that someone was beating up a woman in the road. Payne attempted to stop the 40-year-old Lowery who matched a description of a suspect in a domestic battery complaint, according to a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), which investigated the death.

Payne pursued Lowery, and during the chase, Payne twice fired a Taser at Lowery, but it was ineffective, investigators said. At a gate to a home, Lowery turned toward Payne and threw a bag of narcotics over the fence, the FDLE report said. Payne said he repeatedly told Lowery to drop what was in his hand and drew his firearm while holding the Taser. An investigation revealed that the officer told Lowery to "get down," but Lowery climbed over the gate. With Lowery on the other side of the gate, Payne simultaneously pulled the trigger on his firearm and Taser, hitting Lowery in the back of his head and killing him, the FDLE report said.

No weapons were found on Lowery or near him, according to the report. Payne was placed on unpaid suspension after the incident. 

The State Attorney’s Office for Brevard and Seminole counties on Wednesday issued a criminal charge stemming from an internal investigation by the Titusville Police Department’s Professional Standards Division.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel Natalie Jackson filed a lawsuit against the Titusville Police Department earlier this year on behalf of Lowery's family.  The attorneys issued a joint statement following the filing of the manslaughter charge.

"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. 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 read. "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."

Payne was hired in July of 2020.  Online court records didn't list an attorney for Payne.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.