Records shed light on former Farmers Branch officer accused of murder

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

Ken Johnson, the former Farmers Branch police officer who now faces a murder charge in connection with the shooting death of a teenage burglary suspect, excluded details about his employment history when he applied for his job with the police department. He later told officials there he thought the items were too old to disclose, records show.

The department was satisfied with Johnson’s explanation and recommended that he be hired, according to Farmers Branch training records obtained by News 8 Investigates.

The documents offer new insight into Johnson’s background, and include an essay Johnson wrote shortly after he was hired, outlining his thoughts on the risks and rewards of police work.

“Officer survival is crucial in daily operations,” Johnson wrote in June 2015. “Officers must exhibit safety practices to be effective in ensuring the safety of others.”


Johnson is out on bond, accused of murder and aggravated assault in connection with an off-duty shooting of two teenagers on March 13. According to officials, Johnson said the teens were breaking into his vehicle at an Addison apartment complex.

Johnson, dressed in civilian clothing, pursued the fleeing teens in his personal vehicle. Surveillance video appears to show Johnson bumping the back of the fleeing teens' car with his own, and raising a gun at their wrecked vehicle. The teens were unarmed.

Authorities took the unusual step of arresting Johnson within days of the shooting, rather than waiting for a grand jury investigation to conclude. Johnson has said through his attorney that he feared for his life before he fired his gun at the teens.


Last week, Johnson resigned from the Farmers Branch Police Department. On Tuesday, the family of the teenager who was killed filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him.

When Johnson was applying for a position on the force last year,  a police background investigator noted that Johnson left some details off of his application paperwork.

According to the background report, Johnson inconsistently disclosed two excessive force complaints that were filed against him when he was an officer with Dallas Area Rapid Transit. He spent nearly eight years as a DART officer from 2007 to March 2015.

Johnson was cleared of the complaints, records show, but he failed to list them in his Farmers Branch police history. He did, however, list them in his Farmers Branch police polygraph questionnaire, records show. It is unclear from the records when the DART incident occurred.

The Farmers Branch background report also said Johnson told background investigators he applied for a position with Mesquite police in 2013, but was rejected for “incomplete work history.”

“Investigator discovered Mesquite PD listed rejection as failed background, deception [and] incomplete application,” the Farmers Branch background report says.

Johnson told Farmers Branch he also applied for a job with Grand Prairie police in 2013, but “was rejected due to unknown reasons.” The Farmers Branch background investigator “discovered applicant was removed from the process for financial/descriptions with application,” his report says.

The investigator also “discovered applicant applied with Arlington PD, Austin FD and Denton FD which was not disclosed on FBPD questionnaire.”

The Farmers Branch background investigation also found a 1998 conviction in Lancaster for no motor vehicle insurance, but Johnson said “he does not remember this and will have to check into it because he does not believe that was issued to him.” Portions of this section of the background investigation are redacted.

Johnson also didn’t disclose he was cited in Dallas  -- the date is not listed -- for driving 96 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. The citation was dismissed, according to the Farmers Branch background investigation.

On February 5, 2015, Farmers Branch police asked Johnson about the missing items from his background.

“When asked why applicant only listed some and not others, he stated he thought he [was] only supposed to go back ten years, according to the email he received,” the Farmers Branch background investigator wrote.

“Applicant was very forthcoming about the discrepancies,” the background investigator added. “He stated he had nothing to hide and knew that these would be discovered during the investigation, but again he thought he was just supposed to go back ten years. Applicant apologized several times for this.”

The background investigator added: “Every place of employment has stated the applicant does an excellent job, that he is eligible for rehire, or that they would be disappointed to see him leave.”

Regarding the DART excessive force allegations, the Farmers Branch investigator wrote that they were “unfounded” and “were the result of the applicant attempting to remove a combative person from the train.” When a suspect was cut above the eye, Johnson “immediately notified a supervisor of the use of force incident and also called paramedics.”

The Farmers Branch background investigator also noted that Johnson received two commendations from the DART Police Department  for “lowering crime in his district” and “helping to apprehend suspects who fled and possibly had a weapon,” the background report states.

“I recommend this applicant move forward in the process toward being a peace officer for the city of Farmers Branch,” the background investigator wrote. He said the discrepancies on Johnson’s application were “a result of miscommunication.”

“I do not believe during the course of the investigation that these incidents are grounds for disqualification.”
Training records, also obtained by WFAA, show that Johnson performed well during his rookie training period in Farmers Branch.

In a June 2015 essay, included in Johnson’s personnel records, Johnson expands on his thoughts about the role of police in society.

“One must remain strong and vigilant to fight crime and personal challenges to be an effective officer. The constant alertness and awareness to perform police duties safely defines hypervigilance. Displaying hypervigilance is crucial for officer safety and survival. With this, stress levels tend to rise because officers are constantly scanning surroundings for potential dangers.”

Click to read the full Farmers Branch background report

Ken Johnson Background Investigation by Farmers Branch PD by Jason Trahan

 

(© 2016 WFAA)


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