Justin Way was killed by police six months ago this week in Florida, and now his mother is sick of not having any answers.
“They entered at 4:30. He was shot at 4:36. It was six minutes, and now it’s been six months,” said Denise Way.
“This was not a criminal case. He has no criminal record. They [the police] went into his home with guns drawn. When his girlfriend requested the Baker Act, which is an involuntary incarceration because of his state of mind, and they went in with guns ablazing and shot him in six minutes.”
Justin, 28, had been threatening to hurt himself on his bed, armed with a knife. Within minutes, he was shot several times and killed by police.
Denise Way is eagerly awaiting a medical examination report and a police report from the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office. She told The Daily Beast that she feels the sheriff’s office is hiding something.
“They need time to either lawyer up or concoct a narrative or do character assassination,” she said. “There’s all these other [police-involved] shootings in the news and they come out a week later and we are still sitting here with nothing.”
In May, Denise Way told The Daily Beast that Justin had recently lost his job and was a recovering alcoholic. He had been sober for five weeks, according to his father, George Way.
On May 11, his live-in girlfriend, Kaitlyn Christine Lyons, caught him with a bottle of vodka. He was lying in bed with a large knife by his side saying he wanted to harm himself. Lyons called a non-emergency number and asked he be “Baker Acted,” or involuntarily hospitalized for a mental health evaluation, in a process initiated by law enforcement officers.
Lyons told The Daily Beast in May that she didn’t feel threatened and that her brother had been Baker Acted three times when he, too, was threatening to hurt himself. She said she figured this would lead to Justin receiving medical care.
Instead, two St. John’s County Sheriff’s deputies showed up with assault rifles and told Kaitlyn to wait outside. Minutes later, Justin was dead.
The parents still don’t know exactly what happened, nor have they received their son’s necklace and computer, which were taken in as evidence.
George Way said that police told him that the case is all still under investigation. Initially, the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office said it would take two to three months for the report—two months to get toxicology results, and another month for the remaining portions of the investigation, according to Way.
Justin’s parents said they went to St. Augustine on Sept. 1 to meet with a probate attorney. That attorney, according to the parents, was surprised it was taking so long for the report to be released.
The detective assigned to the case, Samantha English, told the couple that the report was recent passed on to the state’s attorney in Daytona, Noel Griffin.
St. John’s Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed to The Daily Beast that there is a report but said they could give no further information.
The St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office did not return repeated phone calls and requests for comment over the course of this week.
John Smykla, director and professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida Atlantic University, said a medical report from a crime scene all depends on whether DNA testing is involved. If it is, he said a medical report may take months and months, depending on the backlog.
Samuel Walker, retired professor of criminal justice, University of Nebraska at Omaha and police accountability expert, said he doesn’t believe that the police are required to release a report—unless there are some jurisdictions which do require it as a matter of policy or law.
“In most cases, chiefs issue ‘statements’ and may have a press conference, but there is no general ‘rule’ that they have to issue a formal report.”
Denise Way is suspicious of the police’s lack of communication about the case. She, along with her husband, crave some closure.
She feels that when the report is released, it will show that the department’s police procedures and training “needs some work.”
“They shot him four times. One went into his ab, one went into chest, two went into the wall. One of those went right through the exterior wall,” she said.
She also expressed frustration that the full police call wasn’t released.
“We never heard the first 9-1-1 call. There was a previous three to four minutes where Katy called the non-emergency number. That was the part of the call where Katy asked for the Baker Act,” she said. “That part was never released.”
Denise Way said she and her husband do not want Justin to be defined by or remembered for the final moments of his life.
“When he walked into a room, he lit it up with that Cheshire cat smile and playful gleam in his eyes. But he was also seriously caring and deeply sensitive and was, therefore, vulnerable himself and easily bruised,” she said. “He rarely showed that side to others. He was gentle, despite his 6’4” frame, and he avoided conflict at all cost, not always standing up for himself.”