An off-duty suburban Dallas police officer who fatally shot a 16-year-old boy and wounded another teen has been arrested on charges of murder and aggravated assault. The dead victim’s family is calling for the death penalty.
Officer Ken Johnson, 35, was arrested on Wednesday for shooting 16-year old Jose Cruz and his fellow classmate Edgar Rodriguez. Cruz died at the scene and Rodriguez, who was shot in the head, underwent surgery and is expected to survive.
“Based on our investigation thus far we had probable cause to make the arrest this evening,” Addison police chief Paul Spencer said in a prepared statement, according to WFAA. “But this is a rapidly evolving situation and it remains an active investigation…we are refraining…from discussing the evidence collected thus far or about the specifics of the case.”
The deadly shooting occurred Sunday night when Johnson saw teenagers attempting to break into his vehicle in a parking lot. Johnson, who was off-duty at the time, confronted the teens who then fled. Johnson pursued them, hitting their car and causing it to spin out of control near a gas station. There, an “altercation” ensued, and Johnson opened fire, according to Addison police.
Surveillance video taken during the chase appears to show Johnson bump the suspects’ vehicle with his own, causing the suspects to spin out, according to WFAA.
Moments after the vehicle was stopped, a witness took a video that appears to show Johnson pointing a weapon at the vehicle. Chris Livingston, the attorney for Ken Johnson, has confirmed to WFAA the burglary suspects shot by the officer were unarmed at the time of the shooting.
Livingston said his client feared for his life during the confrontation. Police have not mentioned whether the teens were armed or not. Livingston told The Dallas Morning News the department’s “decision to circumvent the grand jury process can only be explained by the fact that my client is a Black police officer.”
Livingston said these cases have been presented to a grand jury in Dallas County for decades, and while indicting law enforcement officers is rare, former Dallas County District Attorney Toby Shook said it indicates that officials have compelling evidence.
“You are getting the public involved with cellphones and cameras that videotape a lot of these incidents, which lead to charges if the officer’s accounts differ,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “I think that makes a significant amount of difference because he was off duty and has apparently violated several of the police department’s policies and his own personal property was involved.”
Farmers Branch police chief Sid Fuller said on Tuesday that Johnson had not followed policy when he chased the teen in his personal vehicle. He also said he should not have brought the chase to a halt by ramming Cruz’s car.
According to Texas Penal Code, deadly force cannot be used in response to theft of personal property unless it occurs at nighttime, which is defined as 30 minutes after sunset. Because of Daylight Saving Time, which went into effect Sunday morning, the sun had not set when the shooting occurred between 7 and 7:30 pm.
Cruz’s family gathered outside the Hughes Funeral Home on Wednesday night. They told the Dallas Morning News they were pleased with Johnson’s arrest and they called for the death penalty.
“We want justice, justice, justice,” said Cruz’s mother, Ana Henriquez, reported The Dallas Morning News.