Utah officials react to loss of Sgt. Derek Johnson, Draper police officer killed on duty

DRAPER – Law enforcement and communities across Utah are grieving in the wake of the death of Draper City Police Department Sgt. Derek Johnson, who was killed in the line of duty early Sunday morning. This is the first time in the history of Draper that a police officer has been killed in the line of duty.

Sgt. Derek Johnson of the Draper City Police Department, killed in the line of duty Sept. 1, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Remembering Sgt. Derek Johnson
Sgt. Derek Johnson of the Draper City Police Department, killed in the line of duty Sept. 1, 2013 | Photo courtesy of Remembering Sgt. Derek Johnson

The incident

As reported by KSL, Johnson was investigating a suspicious vehicle parked on 13200 South Fort Street in Draper shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday. In the car were two people, a 35-year-old man and 34-year-old woman. When Johnson pulled up in his unit to investigate, the man started shooting.

Johnson was shot while still in his vehicle, which subsequently ran off the road and hit a tree. He was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead shortly after.

A massive search for the suspects covered over 30 blocks, shut down streets and alarmed residents across Draper.

The man also shot the woman in the car, who is believed to be a victim, and then himself, leaving both in critical condition. Authorities have not yet released their names, though it was confirmed that they had also been involved in a hit-and-run that destroyed objects along the road in a nearby neighborhood before the shooting.

About Johnson

Johnson grew up in the greater Salt Lake area and graduated from Alta High School in 1999. He served as an explorer scout for the Sandy City Police Department in his youth; his lifelong career goal was to be a police officer, according to friends and family. He worked as a police dispatcher before graduating from the police academy and joining the Draper City Police Department, where he had served for eight years at the time of his death.

Along with eight other Draper officers, he was awarded the Department’s Distinguished Service Medal in February for his role in a child abuse homicide case. He leaves behind his wife, Shante, and their 7-year-old son. He was 32 years old. 

Statewide reaction

A candlelight vigil honoring Johnson was held at Draper City Hall Sunday night. As reported by Deseret News, Draper Mayor Darrell Smith attended the ceremony, where he described the late officer as having an “unbelievable, never-ending optimistic and positive attitude.”

“He brought a lot of good to this community; he brought a lot of good to our police department,” Smith said.

Aside from citizens both in Draper and across Utah, numerous law enforcement agencies and government officials have paid respect and expressed their thoughts on Johnson’s death over the last day and a half.

Sgt. Derek Johnson and his family | Photo courtesy of Remembering Sgt. Derek Johnson
Sgt. Derek Johnson and his family | Photo courtesy of Remembering Sgt. Derek Johnson

“He was a true champion, not only for the citizens of Draper, but for persons in crisis. Sgt. Johnson, thank you. Thank you for all of the lives you saved. Thank you for all the people you helped,” Draper Police Department Crime Victim Services posted on their Facebook page. “You left this world better than you found it doing what you loved, being an officer and attempting to be of service to others. We love you.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Draper Police Department and the family,” the Iron County Sheriff’s Office posted on their Facebook page.

“On behalf of the South Salt Lake Police Department, we express our condolences to the family of Sgt. Derek Johnson and Draper PD. RIP brother,” Chief Chris Snyder posted on the department’s Twitter page.

Sen. Mike Lee issued this statement: “I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of Draper City Police Sgt. Derek Johnson.  My wife Sharon and I are praying for the family and for our law enforcement community as they begin to cope with this loss.  Days such as this are a reminder of the commitment, courage and sacrifice so often displayed by those who protect and defend our neighborhoods and cities.”

A memorial Facebook page has been created to honor Johnson and allow for the public sharing of condolences.

The St. George News team extends condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sgt. Derek Johnson.

St. George News assistant editor Alexa Verdugo Morgan contributed to this story.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • The Memory Remains September 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    This is such a sad story about a Police Officer only doing his job and being gunned down. Sadley this is a common threat and Officers deal with this everyday. There are no words that can be expressed to the family that can comfort in this situation. The public trusts Police Officers to do there job and yes there are Officers that just like civilians, make mistakes. As a whole Officers have two goals when going to work: 1 protect the public, 2: arrive home safe to their families. When a gun is involved there is a heightened sense of danger to these Officers that most of the public doesn’t understand. A few weeks ago there was an editorial about Police Officers and was critical about an Officer in Salt Lake and his action’s when a gun was involved. Mr Hyde mocked the Officers actions referring to the Officers actions as “releasing his inner chimp”. I hope this incident will open the eyes of the public as well as Mr Hyde, and maybe a little understanding into what Officers deal with every day.

  • Dolly and Paul Cox September 2, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Laura and Randy,

    Our Prayers and delicate thoughts are profound and very tender for the two of you as you have lost Derrick. This is our worst nightmare and feel we will need to heal all of us together over this. Our hearts go out to all those who are mourning and as we progress with this tragedy Paul and I want to be spiritually close net with you, all along the way, we want to be of loving help through the spirit. God bless Derrick and God bless ALL of his family. We both love all of you, we are here.

    Lots of Love and Support,

    The Draper Cox’s,

    Dolly and Paul

  • Truth September 3, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Such a tragedy to lose such a great Officer. Prayers go out to the family. Rest In Peace Sgt Johnson.

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