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.
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.