FARMERS BRANCH (CBSDFW.COM) – A police officer who has been accused of shooting and killing a 16-year-old boy is out of jail on Thursday morning. Ken Johnson of the Farmers Branch Police Department bonded out at around 2:00 a.m. and was released from a side exit not normally used for prisoners leaving the jail, out of the public eye.
Family members of Jose Raul Cruz were celebrating on Wednesday afternoon as Johnson was arrested for the teen’s shooting death. Police went to Johnson’s residence to take him into custody, rather than allowing him to turn himself in to authorities. He has been charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The incident happened on Sunday evening at a gas station near the intersection of Marsh Lane and Spring Valley Road. Police said that Johnson, who was off-duty at the time, saw Cruz and a teenage friend breaking into cars at the Addison apartment complex where Johnson lives. The officer and the teens were then involved in a car chase which ended in an altercation. Johnson rammed the car that Cruz was driving and shots were fired. Cruz was killed. He was allegedly unarmed.
The passenger inside of Cruz’s vehicle was also hurt and sent to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the head, later alleged to be a grazing of the ear that also took off the boy’s finger as he covered his face during the gunfire. The passenger’s injuries are not life threatening. That victim’s name has not been released.
Cruz’s family claims that Johnson shot at innocent teenagers. Family representative Carlos Quintanilla on Tuesday released a series of photographs showing the officer at Cruz’s car when the shots were fired. One picture appears to show Johnson with his gun drawn, several feet away from the vehicle. Another picture shows the hurt passenger on his knees after being pulled from the car. Quintanilla on Tuesday called the attack a case of racial profiling. “The officer acted with the premeditated intent to kill these kids,” he said.
The fact that Johnson was taken into custody at his home, Quintanilla believes, shows just how damning the evidence against him might be. “The evidence was so overwhelming,” the spokesman said Wednesday, “that there’s nothing that could be done except an indictment or an immediate arrest. There was no 911. There were no officers in pursuit.”
But while Wednesday was filled with joy for Cruz’s family, it was a day full of frustration for Chris Livingston, the lawyer who is representing Johnson in this case. He stated that the arrest came without the customary grand jury indictment for a police officer, and he can only think of one reason why. “The Addison Police Department has gone against decades of precedent in Dallas County in presenting these cases to a grand jury, and the only reason I can think of is because my client is a black police officer,” Livingston said.
Livingston has previously explained that his client did nothing wrong. “When an officer sees a crime committed in the State of Texas, he is obligated to take action, and that’s what Officer Johnson did in this case,” the attorney has said. Johnson has only been with the Farmers Branch Police Department for one year, but was previously with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s police department for several years.
“The two criminals matched the descriptions of two suspects that had been involved in multiple burglaries in the area,” added Livingston. “They had a situation that put Officer Johnson in fear for his life, and at that point in time, he felt he had no choice but to pull the trigger.”
That argument does not satisfy those who believe that deadly force was unnecessary. Protesters gathered outside of the police stations in Farmers Branch and Addison on Monday night while a vigil was being held near Bachman Lake. Juan Romano was one of more than 100 people who met to remember Cruz. “Just the nicest kid I’ve known,” Romano said at the tearful vigil. “I don’t know why they took him away from us.”
Chief Sid Fuller with the Farmers Branch Police Department and Chief Paul Spencer with the Addison Police Department said on Tuesday that both agencies are conducting their own independent investigations of this case. At a news conference, police mentioned specific policies and steps that should be taken when off-duty officers are enforcing the law. However, when asked if those policies allow for an off-duty officer to chase suspects in a personal vehicle, Fuller said, “No, they do not.”
Cruz’s family is now upset by the fact that the bond on Johnson’s murder charge was set at just $150,000 and that the accused officer has been able to walk away without even spending a night behind bars. “It was rage. It was anger,” Quintanilla said on Tuesday. “It was not chasing a suspect.”