Farmers Branch officer arrested for murder, assault in teens' shooting

Addison police arrested Farmers Branch Police Officer Ken Johnson for murder and aggravated assault Wednesday after he chased down two burglary suspects in his personal vehicle and opened fire on the teens on March 13. Johnson shot and killed 16-year-old

DALLAS -- Addison police arrested Farmers Branch Police Officer Ken Johnson for murder and aggravated assault Wednesday after he chased down two burglary suspects in his personal vehicle and opened fire on the teens on March 13.

Johnson shot and killed 16-year-old Jose Cruz in the incident. His family has called for justice since the shooting, saying the officer did not have to shoot the teens.

He was arrested just before 6 p.m. Wednesday "without incident" and was being booked into the Dallas County Jail. His bond was set at $150,000 -- $100,000 for the murder charge and $50,000 for the aggravated assault.

He is now out on bond.

“Based on our investigation thus far we had probable cause to make the arrest this evening,” said Paul Spencer, Addison’s police chief, in a statement Wednesday. “But this is a rapidly-evolving situation and it remains an active investigation.

"Therefore, we are refraining at this time from discussing the evidence collected thus far or about the specifics of this case. We expect there are still several weeks of additional investigative work to do.”

Johnson, who is the courtesy officer for an apartment complex in Farmers Branch, claims he saw Cruz and Edgar Rodriguez breaking into his personal vehicle.  The suspects took off in Cruz's red Dodge Charger and Johnson gave chase in his personal SUV.  

Surveillance video obtained by News 8 on Monday appears to show Johnson bump the suspects' vehicle with his own, causing the suspects to spin out at 7:08pm.

Moments after the vehicle was stopped at the intersection of Marsh Lane and Spring Valley, a witness took a video that also appears to show Johnson pointing a weapon at the vehicle. Chris Livingston, the attorney for Ken Johnson, initially told News 8 the burglary suspects shot by the officer were unarmed at the time of the shooting.

"Obviously, that's a complicating factor, that these two criminals did not have weapons on them," Livingston said. "At the same, they were in the middle of committing a crime. They did not follow orders."

However, Livingston called back an hour after the interview and clarified that Addison police have not released any information about the suspects' use of weapons publicly.

Livingston did say that the burglary suspects "indicated and gave a threat" to Johnson, but he would not say what that threat was or how it was presented.

Johnson's attorney also took issue with the case not going before a grand jury, as many officer-involved shootings do.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Addison has gone against decades of precedent in Dallas County and taken it upon themselves to arrest Officer Johnson,” Livingston said.

He said he believes Addison's decision is somehow politically or racially motivated.

"I'm wondering if this is being done because I'm representing a black police officer," Livingston said.

On Wednesday night at the Hughes Funeral Home in Dallas, there were waves of raw emotion. Hundreds had gathered for the wake service for Jose Cruz. At the service most people wore red, some with specially-printed shirts with his name and face on it.

When news broke of the arrest of Officer Johnson late Wednesday, family spokesman and attorney Carlos Quintanilla made the decision to tell the chapel full of people.

"Give yourself a round of applause for your efforts for justice," he said to the crowd in Spanish.

The chapel erupted in applause.

The teenager's grandmother stood next to Quintanilla as he broke the news. She was in tears while Quintanilla spoke of the arrest of Ken Johnson.

Soon after the wake service, hundreds would gather around the family at the funeral home for a press conference. Cruz's mother, Ana Eschriche, wants the death penalty for Johnson.

Quintanilla translated words said by the mother: "She's asking for justice for this individual who took the life of her child," he said.

The family says it will patiently wait out the judicial process. Now that an arrest has occurred, they say they want to properly bury their child.

Farmers Branch Police Chief Sid Fuller said Johnson violated department policies in chasing the teens in his personal vehicle while he was off duty for what would have likely been a misdemeanor offense.

Fuller's department is handling the internal investigation in the case, while Addison police are in charge of the criminal investigation. Fuller said he was waiting for the criminal investigation to conclude before moving forward on any personnel matters.

"It would be in appropriate of FBPD to comment while the internal investigation into the officer’s conduct continues," said City of Farmers Branch spokesperson Tom Bryson. "Farmers Branch PD hopes to be able to release findings as soon as possible. However, there is no timetable right now."

News 8's Jobin Panicker and David Goins and WFAA.com's Josh Davis contributed to this story.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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