FARMERS BRANCH (CBSDFW.COM) – The community continues to call for justice after an off-duty police officer from Farmers Branch shot and killed a 16-year-old teenager in Addison in March. A protest is planned for Tuesday evening while Jose Cruz’s family continues their quest for answers.
Ken Johnson has been charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. According to an arrest warrant, the off-duty officer chased Cruz and another teen in his vehicle back in March after allegedly catching them burglarizing cars. The police officer rammed Cruz’s car and fired shots. Cruz was killed, and 16-year-old passenger Edgar Rodriguez was hospitalized with injuries to his ear and finger.
Rodriguez has admitted that the two teens were stealing seats from vehicles that evening, before realizing that they were being followed. During the car chase, he expected to go to jail for the crime. “I never imagined that he would start shooting at us for some seats,” Rodriguez recalled. “When I stopped hearing gunshots, I got up and then I saw Jose, and Jose had his eyes closed already.”
The teens were allegedly unarmed, and Johnson was not injured during the altercation. Rodriguez stated that Johnson did not identify himself as a police officer until after the shots were fired. “The death of my friend has made me realize, I need to make good decisions, and the decisions I was making were no good,” Rodriguez said.
Cruz’s family claims that Johnson shot at innocent teenagers. Family representative Carlos Quintanilla released photographs showing the officer at Cruz’s car when 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 has called the attack a case of racial profiling. “The officer acted with the premeditated intent to kill these kids,” he said.
Johnson walked away without spending a single night behind bars after paying his $150,000 bond.
Chris Livingston is Johnson’s attorney, and 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,” Livingston stated. Johnson had only been with the Farmers Branch Police Department for one year, but was formerly with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s police department for several years, and is an Army veteran. He has since resigned.
Chief Sid Fuller with the Farmers Branch Police Department discussed the organization’s policies for off-duty officers who are enforcing the law. When asked if the policies allow the off-duty officer to chase suspects in a personal vehicle, Fuller said, “No, they do not.” The department’s chase policies, the chief added, only cover emergency vehicles.
“Just because he’s a police officer doesn’t mean he can do whatever,” said Nora Rubi, the victim’s cousin.
“It was rage. It was anger,” Quintanilla said. “It was not chasing a suspect.”
Loved ones remembered Cruz at a vigil after his death. “Just the nicest kid I’ve known,” friend Juan Romano said of the victim at that tearful gathering. “I don’t know why they took him away from us.”
And still, two months later, Cruz’s family continues to demand that justice be served. They hope a protest at the Farmers Branch City Hall at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday will bring peace and answers. “We have to send a message that if a cop kills a young of our community, our community is not going to stay quiet. It has to be justified, ” Quintanilla posted on his Facebook page. “The death of Jose Cruz was not justified.”