Murder Trial Underway for Ex-Officer Accused of Chasing, Killing Teen

Testimony begins Monday in the trial of a former Farmers Branch police officer

The trial of a former Farmers Branch police officer, charged with murder and aggravated assault for shooting two teenagers last March, is underway in Dallas.

"He killed somebody, shot every bullet he could, because he might have a gun," Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus told jurors Monday.

Prosecutors said Ken Johnson was off-duty March 13, 2016 when he spotted two 16-year-olds stealing car seats from his SUV. He confronted the teens, identified later as Jose Cruz and Edgar Rodriguez, who then drove off.

Johnson got into his SUV and chased the teens, eventually crashing into their vehicle.

With the teens stopped, Johnson then ran toward their car. As he approached, prosecutors said, he fired 16 shots from a fully-loaded handgun, killing Cruz and severely injuring Rodriguez.

Johnson, who has pleaded not guilty in Cruz's death, resigned from the Farmers Branch police force shortly after the shooting.

"I wasn't expecting him to shoot," Edgar Rodriguez told jurors.

"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 testified.

Prosecutors showed jurors surveillance video from an Addison business which shows Johnson's SUV slam into Cruz's car and then the officer running toward the vehicle.

"The only audible sound that a few witnesses who were close by heard come out of this man's mouth when he jumped out of that SUV was, 'Woo-hoo,'" Hermus told jurors. "He literally said, 'Woo-hoo!'"

Johnson's defense attorney told jurors the off-duty officer feared for his life after seeing Cruz, inside the car, reach for something that he thought may have been a weapon.

But neither teenager had a weapon.

"This is a tragedy. It is not a crime," attorney Robert Rogers told jurors Monday. "Ken Johnson has spent his entire adult life serving people, and on that day it was a reaction — a reaction as a police officer and as a citizen."

Members of Cruz's family were in the courtroom for the first day of testimony.

"The wishes for the family is that there will be justice for Jose Cruz," family spokesman Carlos Quintanilla said outside the courtroom. "The only justice for Jose Cruz is that Ken Johnson gets convicted for murder of this 16-year-old boy."

Eyewitnesses Recall Crash, Shooting

Several eyewitnesses to the shooting testified Tuesday.

"That incident has caused me a lot of struggle and pain," Michelle Liles Alexander told jurors. "[I] blacked out on the highway from having a panic attack, nightmares, and just fear, I fear of going anywhere."

Alexander was inside the gas station next to where Johnson shot Cruz and Rodriguez.

"I saw a man go toward that car and he started shooting, and in my head I counted nine shots before I went to the floor," Alexander told jurors. "I looked up, he still had the gun in his hand. I know he had walked back to the car and I just went back to the ground. I was very scared."

Alexander called 911 while she was still on the floor inside the gas station.

"I was just frantic. I was yelling, 'Please get here, please get here, the guy still has a gun," Alexander said.

Later she watched police investigate the scene, where Cruz was killed.

"I just kept looking at the red car hoping that the driver would get out and he just never did," Alexander told jurors.

Another eyewitness told jurors Johnson fired directly at the driver's side window, where Cruz sat behind the wheel.

"He opened the door, and made a direct beeline toward that red car, and as he cleared the door I saw him with a gun in his hand," Randy Cuevas told jurors. "He raised his gun and he started firing at the vehicle. And what I saw was that the bullets were hitting the window area of the vehicle," Cuevas said.

Police investigators testified Johnson did not follow proper procedure for an off-duty officer when he approached the vehicle.

Prosecutors intend to call 20 witnesses to the stand in a trial that is expected to last two weeks.

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