After a day and a half of deliberations, a Dallas County jury sentenced former Farmers Branch police officer Ken Johnson to 10 years in prison Tuesday for the 2016 murder of Jose Cruz. Johnson, 37, shot two teenagers in March 2016 after he caught them breaking into his Chevy Tahoe at his Farmers Branch apartment complex.
Johnson was off duty and out of uniform when he saw 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 chased them 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 teens. 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. In a separate sentence, the jury gave Johnson a 10-year suspended sentence for his aggravated assault of Rodriguez.
During his trial, Johnson's defense attorneys argued that "instinct and adrenaline" led him to shoot Cruz and Rodriguez, who were unarmed, in self-defense. Witnesses for the prosecution told a different story. One man who saw Johnson shoot Cruz and Rodriguez testified that he thought he was witnessing a murder.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"He charged the car with his gun drawn and started unloading into the driver side," Michael Stanislaus, an Addison resident, said during Johnson's trial.
Rodriguez told jurors that Johnson shot the teens without giving them 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.
After the jury's sentence, members of Cruz's family were expected to give victim impact statements to the court Tuesday afternoon.