Draper • Derek Johnson did two things shortly after graduating high school: He married his high school sweetheart, who lived around the block, and he attained his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer.
That all came to an end about 6 a.m. Sunday, when investigators suspecta 35-year-old man shot the decorated Draper police sergeant to death as he pulled up to examine a car that was parked at an odd angle on 13200 S. Fort St.
"This is a very tragic day for the Draper City Police Department," a somber Draper Police Chief Bryan Roberts said at a news conference hours later, flanked by the city manager and council members on the steps of City Hall.
As he drove up, Johnson, 32, was "ambushed" by the man in a silver Volvo, who also shot the 34-year-old woman with him, Roberts said. As Johnson drove from the area, the man continued shooting, and Johnson crashed into a tree three blocks north, at about 12900 S. Fort St., the chief added.
"[He] was never able to return fire," Roberts said.
After shooting at Johnson, the man turned the gun on himself, Roberts added.
Dispatchers received an unintelligible distress call from Johnson at about 6 a.m. More calls, this time from citizens, quickly followed about shots fired. Emergency responders rushed to the area of Fort Street, a residential neighborhood, where witnesses say they found Johnson wounded in his police vehicle; they pulled him out and tried to save him. He was flown to Intermountain Medical Center but died of his injuries.
Officers also found the male suspect and female victim, who were taken to local hospitals in critical condition. Investigators later determined that the man and woman had been in an accident at 900 East and 13800 South, striking fixed objects, and kept going until they came to a stop at 13200 S. Fort St., where Johnson came across them.
Kris Szelag, who lives in the 12900 block of Fort Street, said she was awakened by a gunshot and then heard what sounded like a car crash.
She looked outside and saw officers pull another officer out of a police car and perform CPR until a Life Flight helicopter landed and carried the officer away. She said her adrenaline was high.
"I wanted to see if there was any way I could help," said Szelag, who is an RN.
Officers cordoned off a large swath of Draper neighborhoods, from 300 East to 1300 East and from Pioneer Road to 13800 South. Church services were canceled, and residents within the containment area were asked to stay in their homes — through a reverse 911 call and a phone tree — as armed officers patrolled the streets with police dogs.
"We want to reassure the residents that we are doing everything we can to keep the residents of Draper safe," Roberts said.
"It brought back shades of the Boston [manhunt]," said Draper Councilman Bill Rappleye, who lives in the search area. "It’s a sad day any time one of our officers is injured in the line of duty, or worse. It’s a heartbreaker."
The perimeter was eventually narrowed to Fort Street between Walden Lane and 13300 South. The chief said police are asking everyone there 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.
The Unified Police Department is investigating the shooting. Police will continue to update residents as information becomes available, Roberts said.
Johnson is the 136th law enforcement officer to be killed in Utah in the line of duty.
Phil Goold has known Johnson most of the police sergeant’s life through their local LDS Church ward.
"He married his high school sweetheart who lived around the corner from him," said Goold, adding that Johnson married his wife, Shante, 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 LDS ward. "It was his dream from when he was a little boy."Next Page >
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