After nearly two days of deliberations, a Dallas County jury found a former Farmers Branch police officer guilty of murder and aggravated assault Tuesday afternoon. Ken Johnson, 37, shot two teenagers in March 2016 after he caught them breaking into his Chevy Tahoe at his Farmers Branch apartment complex. Sheriff's deputies took Johnson, who'd been out of jail on bail during the trial, into custody immediately after the verdict. He's set to be sentenced Jan. 8.
Johnson was off duty and out of uniform when he saw Jose Cruz and Edgar Rodriguez, both 16, breaking into his SUV. As Cruz and Rodriguez tried to get away from Johnson in Cruz's red Dodge Challenger, Johnson gave chase in his Tahoe, eventually ramming into the Challenger at Spring Valley Road and Marsh Lane.
After forcing Cruz and Rodriguez off the road, Johnson got out of his car as it rolled into traffic and fired 16 shots at the two teenagers. Cruz died at the scene from a shot to the head. Rodriguez, hit in the head and hand, survived but lost a finger and had to have his ear reconstructed.
One of Johnson's defense attorneys, Robert Rogers, told jurors that "instinct and adrenaline" led his client to shoot Cruz and Rodriguez, who were unarmed, in self defense.
"Ken Johnson had a day off, but when you're a peace officer, you never have a day off," Rogers said, according to reporters in the courtroom.
The state's witnesses painted a different picture of the shooting.
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"I thought I was witnessing a murder," Michael Stanislaus, an Addison resident who saw the shooting, said last week. "He charged the car with his gun drawn and started unloading into the driver side."
Rodriguez, the teen who survived the shooting, told jurors that Johnson began shooting without any kind of a warning.
"He shot for no reason. He just started shooting without saying anything before. He didn't tell us to get out of the car or nothing," Rodriguez said.
Johnson resigned from the Farmers Branch Police Department after he was indicted in September 2016. A civil suit filed by Cruz's family against Johnson and the city of Farmers Branch is pending.