It is the duty of police officers to protect and serve their neighborhoods, to ensure the safety and well-being of all members of the community.
Sadly, not every police officer understands that. Thankfully, this is a story about an officer who knows how to keep the peace and not just do their job right, but who took a bullet for the people he was trying to protect…
Shots were flying all around them. A half-dozen police officers had been called by the shooter’s wife. They had been warned he was armed. It wasn’t until that very moment, as the six of them attempted to shield themselves and diffuse the situation, that they realized how armed.
Drunk and Disorderly
Juliette was at the end of her rope when she made her way down to the police station that night. Her husband Theo had been drinking, which wasn’t unusual, but this time his drinking had given way to extreme and unwarranted anger. That anger in turn gave way to a drunken Theo waving his gun around and threatening her and their landlady…
Thankfully, before he could do anything with the gun, Theodore succumbed to the alcohol and fell asleep. Juliette decided she needed to get out of there as quick as possible and go to the police, lest he wake up and make good on his threats to start firing. So she walked into the police station to report the incident.
Theodore Johnson wasn’t what anyone would call a model citizen. A 64-year-old grandfather who was on probation for a violent domestic situation involving his 12-year-old granddaughter. If that weren’t enough to give the officers cause for concern, he also had a lengthy criminal history, which included multiple felony convictions all the way back to 1972…
Needless to say, the six Police officers dispatched to the couple’s home on Ottawa Avenue, were advised to proceed with caution. The landlady let them into the upstairs unit and the brave officers began to ascend the stairs. They made sure to identify themselves as police to the potentially armed man by calling out as such.
64-year-old Theodore Johnson was laying passed out in his apartment when he heard someone yell “police” outside his front door. He got to his feet and headed out of the apartment, gun drawn. No sooner had he come out of the front door that he began to fire shots out into the hallway…
Blam! Blam! The two shots rang out in the upstairs hallway. One of the bullets traveled through a window and hit the wall of a home next door, the other went straight into the bullet-proof vest of Officer David Muniz. In a flash, the officers on the stairs took up defensive positions.
Muniz, knocked back but mostly unharmed, headed downstairs with the rest of his fellow officers, including Timothy Hannon, Michael Surtz, John Jarrell, and John Lyons. Johnson meanwhile, steadied himself and followed the policemen down, gun in hand…
At this point, despite the fact that he had been shot by the offender, Officer Muniz continued to do his best to calm the situation. He knew that if it escalated, they would be forced to protect themselves and a simple misunderstanding would result in deadly consequences.
Drop the Gun
The Officers shouted at Johnson and demanded he drop his gun. He refused and a brief standoff ensued. “Go ahead and shoot me.” To which Officer Muniz replied, “No, we’re not going to shoot you. I know you shot me but I’m not going to shoot you.” They waited for something to happen…
Fire on Him
Johnson had his gun raised and went to fire again, this time directly at the gathered policemen. Before he could though, officers Hannon, Surtz, Jarrell, and Lyons all fired at him first. Theodore Johnson fell to the floor dead: the victim of his own addiction and temper.
When the story made the news, some people believed that the officers were just doing what they had to in order to protect their lives, that of the landlady, and of course the complainant, Juliette Johnson. Other people wondered though, did the officers really have no choice?
With everything that’s happened in recent years regarding police officer misconduct, it should come as no surprise that many believed Theodore Johnson had been mistakenly killed. Indeed, even the District Attorney and the Police Chief wanted to investigate every facet of the situation before they closed the case.
Recently, cops all over the nation have been forced to wear police body cams to make sure no police misconduct occurs. Luckily for everyone involved, Officer Muniz was wearing such a body camera at the time of the shooting. Now the top brass could review the footage captured by body cam to see if the situation did indeed happen as the officers described…
Tried and Failed
Body cams have been worn as a way to weed out malfeasance on the part of officers, but in this case, the camera actually helped to prove their story. It also allowed the court to view that the officers, specifically David Muniz, did everything they could to get Johnson to drop the gun before they were forced to fire.
Determined to Die
Officer Muniz’a body camera video shows what the DA believed to be indisputable evidence that the shooting was justified in every way. “It’s clear from the moment the action begins that Theodore Johnson is determined to be killed by the police.” explains Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty. Still, you can’t blame people for having their doubts…
Take for instance some of the more recent cases involving victims like Philando Castile, or even going as far back as Rodney King. People want to believe that they can trust their police officers, but a few bad apples have placed doubt on every department across the US. It’s for those reasons that these cameras are a necessary tool.
Prosecutor McGinty sent a letter to the Cleveland Police Chief, a man named Calvin Williams, to explain what the situation would be with the officers. His conclusion was that “The shooting was reasonable and necessary.” He added that the officers were more than justified…
The prosecutor added that, “The Officers in fact showed remarkable restraint and went above and beyond their duty to seek a peaceful end to a situation that would likely have been deadly to at least one officer were it not for his ballistic vest.” It was a brutal end to a brutal man.
It’s a tough thing to take someone’s life, and no one likes doing it: least of all police officers. But if it came down to your life, the life of innocents, and the life of a criminal and potential child abuser, you would likely choose the former option every time. What do you think? Do you think the officers could have safely defused the situation any more?