Sunday, May 25, 2008

Officer Rodney Johnson's Last Call

by Connie Park

When Houston police officer Rodney Johnson received the department's Badge Number 5913, he took the oath to protect and serve the citizens of Houston, Texas. Years later, on September 21, 2006, Officer Johnson was policing the city when he made what should have been a routine traffic stop. What happened in that brief moment changed the course of many lives--a tragic moment no one can reverse.

Officer Johnson stopped Juan Leonardo Quintero on traffic for speeding. Johnson handcuffed him and placed him in the back seat of his police cruiser. While Officer Johnson was sitting in the front driver’s seat of the vehicle filling out paperwork, he was shot not once, but four times in the back of the head by the suspect he had handcuffed. Quintero had managed to retrieve a pistol from his waistband. Though he had been shot, Officer Johnson somehow was able to press the emergency button in his patrol car. That was the last thing Johnson did before he died, the “last call” he made as a police officer.

Quintero (pictured right) was taken into custody to the HPD homicide office where he gave a videotaped confession to Sergeant David Ferguson. In his statement, Quintero said that he shot the officer because he thought that Johnson had disrespected him--that Officer Johnson should have just given him a ticket rather than taking him into custody. Quintero demonstrated in the video how he managed to retrieve the pistol and fire it while he was in handcuffs. It turned out that Quintero was illegally in the United States. He was charged with capital murder of a police officer and pled not guilty by reason of insanity. Quintero’s attorneys claimed that Quintero suffered from mental disease or defect and was unable to understand what he was doing. Quintero was facing the death penalty for the brutal murder of Officer Johnson.

On May 8, 2008, it took only six hours for Harris County jurors in Houston to come back with a guilty verdict for Quintero. Now it was up to the jurors to decide on sentencing, which, in a Texas capital murder case, consists of two options: life in prison without parole or the death penalty. During the State's compelling closing arguments in the punishment phase, prosecutors John Jordan and Denise Bradley asked the jurors to follow and interpret the law, which, they argued, would clearly show that Quintero deserved the death penalty and that he posed a future threat or danger to society.

“You look for some humanity in this defendant," Assistant District Attorney Jordan said, referring to the videotaped confession. "You look for some emotion, some heart, some soul in this defendant. You can watch it twenty times and you won’t find it.”

Prosecutor Bradley addressed Quintero directly: “You’re a threat in the back seat of a patrol car. You’re a threat anywhere. We can’t protect ourselves from Juan Quintero."

Quintero’s attorneys stated that brain damage caused their client to suffer from mental disease and that his actions that day were a result of "freak circumstances.” The attorneys asked the jurors to show some mercy on Quintero.

Naturally, prosecutor Bradley countered by asking whether Quintero showed any mercy when he shot Officer Johnson four times in the back of the head.

On May 20, 2008, the jurors decided to sentence Quintero to life in prison without parole. This stunned everyone in the courtroom, including Quintero and his attorneys. Prosecutors were shocked, as were Johnson’s wife, Joslyn Johnson, his family members, friends and brothers and sisters in blue. This was a senseless act where Officer Johnson was executed and murdered. This was a case where the death penalty was the right and just punishment.

Officer Johnson was not only a coworker of mine, but I was fortunate to have been friends with him and with his wife, Sergeant Joslyn Johnson (pictured left). I remember a couple of years ago I asked him what makes a good marriage and how he and Joslyn got along so well. He told me that he was just lucky to have Joslyn as his wife. As for everyone who knew him, Rodney was a big teddy bear and a jokester.

Officer Johnson will not only be remembered as a fallen hero who gave the ultimate sacrifice. He will also be remembered as a great and respected man. During a victim's impact statement to the court, Officer Johnson's sister, Susan Johnson, told everyone in the courtroom that “Rodney was bigger than life” and that he was a loving husband, father, brother, son, and brother in blue. He loved his family and his job as an officer. Rodney was proud to wear his badge and uniform and to protect and serve the City of Houston. She stated that what Quintero did on September 21, 2006, will affect their lives forever but that Quintero will never be able to take away the cherished memories they have of Rodney.

I can’t even fathom the pain Joslyn and Rodney’s children and other family members have gone through since they received the phone call and learned that Rodney had been killed. But what I can say is that we, Rodney’s brothers and sisters in blue, feel an emptiness and sadness only officers can describe. It’s what bonds officers together and what makes us a family. It’s the oath we all took to protect and to serve and Rodney was doing exactly that on the day he was shot and killed by Quintero. Rodney’s caring and selfless acts will have an unforgettable impact on our lives forever and we are all blessed to have known him.

We will continue to love and pray for Joslyn and the kids and Rodney’s family members. But, most importantly, we will never forget Rodney and he will be in our hearts forever.

We will also carry in our heavy hearts the thought of if and when our “last call” will be.


Donna Weaver said...

Great post, Connie! And what a heartbreaking story! My deepest sympathies to Officer Johnson's wife and family, both blood and blue.

Leah said...

How very sad. Everytime I start to feel a pang of sympathy for illegal aliens, I read about something like this. I can't believe he has the gall to come here, illegally no less, and complain about being disrespected. Then claim to be mentally ill and that he didn't know what he was doing. He can't be that mentally diseased.

Diane Fanning said...

So sorry for the loss of your fellow officer. When the shooter says, "he shot the officer because he thought that Johnson had disrespected him," he sounds like every other out of control psychopath I've studied. The world is safer with him beyond bars and with a life without parole sentence, he thankfully will never walk among us again.

Jan said...


Thank you for your story about Officer Johnson, yet another way his memory can be kept alive. It's a wonder that police officers can keep doing their jobs, never knowing who is going to be their "Quintero".

This is yet another example of our broken jury system. Who, if not this man, deserves the death penalty?

Connie Park said...

Thank you so much for all your support and recognition of my hero. I know the immigration issue is a whole different topic but I beleive there needs to be a system where documentation and a database system is available.

Leah said...

I shouldn't have even mentioned immigration, but it happens to be something I am dealing with at the moment because of another issue. It doesn't matter who pulled the trigger and murdered such a fine man, they would deserve the DP as well. His arrogance and sense of entitlement galls me. At least he won't walk among us again.

Great post Connie.

N.B. said...

A moving story Connie. I feel for anyone whose life is changed by a pointless and reckless act of violence such as this.

Kathryn Casey said...

So sorry for your loss, Connie. A real tragedy for everyone who knew and loved Officer Johnson and for the entire city of Houston.

Soobs said...

He may not be "out among us" but he will be in prison, and potentially (probably) will injure or murder another person. I can almost guarantee that he'll be "disrespected" in prison, and if he'll kill a police officer, while handcuffed, he'll have no hesitation to kill someone else in prison. He should have been given the d.p.

Anonymous said...

The US Government shall pass a bill where anyone, regardless of who, whether a minor or adult, male or female, young or old, mentally challenged or intelligent, who disrespect or assault a police officer shall be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Minimum of 5 years in prison and $25,000 fine. There will be no bail for such offense whatsoever! Murdering an officer, intentionally or unintentionally is automatically calls for the death penalty, once again regardless of the person's identity or mental condition! I believe this SOB Quintero know what he was doing and if I was an assistant officer, I will shoot him myself to death and the shooting will justified as self-defense!