Police Sgt. Derek Johnson, 32, was shot and killed responding to a 911 call
DRAPER — Police suspect an adult man and woman were responsible for the death of Draper police Sgt. Derek Johnson, Sunday, but offered few details on just what happened Sunday morning. Sgt. Derek Johnson of the Draper Police Department was shot after responding to a call on South Fort Street about 6 a.m. He was transported to Intermountain Medical Center where he died from his injuries, Draper Police Chief Bryan Roberts confirmed in press briefings Sunday.
The man and woman, who police did not identify but say are responsible for Johnson's death, were also shot in the encounter and remained in critical condition. “We are here under the most tragic of circumstances,” Roberts said. “This is a very tragic day for the Draper City Police Department. We want to reassure the residents that we are doing everything we can to keep the residents of Draper safe,” he said, reading from a statement.
Few details about the encounter were released and Roberts did not answer questions after briefly addressing the media Sunday afternoon. Roberts said police do not believe there are suspects at large, but were continuing the investigation and will update residents as more information is available. Kris Szelag, who lives on South Fort Street said she was awakened around 5:30 a.m. by a gunshot. A registered nurse, Szelag said she rushed outside to see if she could help. She saw an officer being pulled out of his car and emergency personnel begin CPR. One of her neighbors told her that he awoke to a SWAT team surrounding his barn.
"Adrenaline was pretty high," she said. Medical personnel continued CPR for at least 30 minutes, she said, until a medical helicopter transported the officer to a hospital. During a hunt for suspects officers carried assault weapons through the streets, she said. Church meetings throughout Draper were canceled for the morning, and police asked residents who lived on Fort Street to stay in their homes.
Draper City Council member William Rappleye, who lives on Willow Springs Lane, was at the press conference. Earlier in the day he said he was on the outer rim of a perimeter that police set up. According to what he saw throughout the morning, police set up an inner perimeter as well, where they conducted a more active search.
Initially police contained a perimeter from 300 East to 1300 East and Pioneer Street (12400 South) to 13800 South, blocking traffic and entry into the area, in their search for possible suspects in the area. They used a reverse 911 call to inform Draper residents to stay in their homes in order to stay safe. The outer barricade was lifted about 10:30 a.m., allowing some traffic to resume.
The perimeter was entirely cleared late Sunday afternoon, with the exception of Fort Street between Walden Lane and 13300 South, where detectives were still gathering evidence. Police began searching the area with a canine team from Orem and a Department of Public Safety helicopter. Units from Utah Highway Patrol, South Jordan, Sandy, Midvale, Utah Transit Authority and the Orem team were assisting in the search.
"I'm really sad. Our police officers are some great people," Rappleye said. Johnson was one of nine presented with the Distinguished Service Medal in February by the Draper Police Department for his role in the investigation and prosecution of a child abuse homicide in 2012. He married Shante Johnson in 2000 and they have a seven-year-old son.
"I have known Derek for many years. He is one of the best and most qualified sergants on our force," Draper Mayor Darrell Smith said from a prepared statement. Smith and his wife met Johnson's family at the hospital and at their home Sunday morning. "They are wonderful people and have suffered a tremendous and tragic loss," he said.
There will be a candellight vigil at Draper City Hall at 8 p.m. Sunday, in honor of Sgt. Johnson. All are invited to attend.
A Draper police officer was shot and killed Sunday, triggering the cordoning off of a Draper neighborhood near the 13000 block of Fort Street. Police Chief Bryan Roberts identified the officer as Sgt. Derek Johnson, 32. Dispatchers received an unintelligible distress call about 6 a.m. from Johnson, followed quickly by civilian calls about shots fired. Responding officers found Johnson had been shot along with a man and woman, Roberts said, reading from a news release at a press conference. At a later press conference, Roberts revealed that investigators believe the man and/or woman were responsible for the shooting.
He said Johnson was transported by helicopter to Intermountain Medical Center, where he died of his injuries. The man and woman were also transported and were in critical condition. The Unified Police Department is investigating the shooting. The chief said police are asking Fort Street residents to stay in their homes and contact an officer on-scene if they need to leave. An officer will then escort them out of the area.
Despite the cordoning off of an area bordered by 300 East to 1300 East and Willow Springs to 13800 South, Roberts said police "do not believe we have any outstanding suspects at this time." "This is a very tragic day for the Draper city police department," a somber Roberts said at the news conference, flanked by the city manager and council members. "We want to reassure the residents that we are doing everything we can to keep the residents of Draper safe."
The investigation is ongoing and police will continue to update residents as information become available, he said. Roberts also asked residents to call 911 if they see anything suspicious. Kris Szelaj, who lives in the 12900 block of Fort Street, said a gunshot awoke her at about 5:30 a.m. and then she heard what sounded like a car crash.
She looked outside and saw across the street, officers pull another officer out of a police car and perform CPR on him until a Life Flight helicopter landed and carried the injured officer away. She said her adrenaline was high, "I wanted to see if there was any way I could help," said Szelaj, who is an RN. But officers were telling her neighbors who had walked outside to go back in their homes. And a local LDS ward also initiated a phone tree, telling members to stay in their homes.
Szelaj said there was a "mass of confusion" after Life Flight left. Officers with assault rifles and K-9 units walked the street. Draper Councilman William Rappleye, who lives in the search area, said he received a phone call from the mayor about 7:15 a.m. Sunday saying an officer had been shot and police were looking for the shooter.
"It brought back shades of the Boston [manhunt]," Rappleye said. "It’s a sad day anytime one of our officers is injured in the line of duty, or worse. It’s a heartbreaker." Johnson is the 136th law enforcement officer to be killed in Utah in the line of duty. "He married his high school sweetheart who lived around the corner from him," said Phil Goold, who has known Johnson most of his life through their local LDS Church ward. He and Shante wed shortly after high school graduation.
About the same time, Johnson entered the police academy. "Derek always wanted to be a police officer," said Steve Glad, who used to be a bishop in Johnson’s ward. "It was his dream from when he was a little boy." He was hired in April 2004 as a reserve officer and made a full-time officer eight months later. He was then promoted to sergeant in December 2012, working in patrol, community policing and investigations. He also received a community policing award that year.
"I’ve known Derek for many years," said Draper Mayor Darrell H. Smith. "He is one of the best and most qualified sergeants on our force… Never have I spoken with Derek without recognizing his positive attitude and love for his work and serving the community of Draper."
Johnson did a good job protecting his hometown, Goold added. "Derek was just a good kid, a local kid," Goold said. "I remember going on outtings with him. We had an annual pilgrimage out to Moab as men, a boys’ weekend thing... [the Johnsons] really were this great Draper family." The 1033 Foundation, which provides immediate financial assistance to the families of fallen officers, plans to present a $25,000 check to the Johnsons, said Ryan Walsh, a member of the board of advisers. The number 10-33 is a radio code that means an officer is in urgent need of help.
"Every time a police officer dies in the line of duty, we’ll be there that day," Walsh said. This is third time the Park City-based foundation has given such assistance. The first time was after the January 2012 death of Jared Francom, an Ogden police officer killed while serving a search warrant. The second time was in June 2012, after Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Aaron Beesley died after falling from a cliff during a search and rescue mission near Mount Olympus.
"We’ve gone 13 months without a line-of-duty death," Walsh said. "We would have liked to go longer." Sunday afternoon, Nevah Stevenson left a bouquet of yellow roses on the steps of Draper City Hall. Stevenson, school advancement director at St. John’s the Baptist Elementary and Middle School and a Draper resident, saw a Facebook post about tying yellow ribbons around the city in Johnson’s honor — hence her color choice for the flowers.
"I have a heavy heart," she said. "I am pryaing for his family." A note with the flowers reads: "Holding you in our hearts, Johnson family. May God bless officer Derek Johnson." A candlelight vigil is being held at 8 p.m. at Draper City Hall to honor and remember Johnson. The Salt Lake Tribune will update this story as more information is available.
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