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Hero Down: Charleston PD Officer Cassie Johnson Murdered During Parking Complaint

Charleston, WV – Charleston Police Department (CPD) Officer Cassie Johnson died in the line of duty at 4 p.m. Dec. 3 after being shot in the face while responding to a parking complaint on Dec. 1.

The attack occurred in the 200-block of Garrison Avenue at about 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, as the 28-year-old officer was handling a parking complaint.

According to Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford, the complainant had called 911 to report that 38-year-old Joshua Marcellus Phillips had parked his red Dodge Durango in the driveway of a residence that didn’t belong to him, WSAZ reported.

At some point during her investigation, Officer Johnson approached a residence across the street from where the Durango was parked and made contact with Phillips, who then accompanied her back outside to the vehicle, Sheriff Rutherford said.

The sheriff said there is video footage of the incident.

“There was some discussion back and forth,” he said, according to WSAZ. “It appears she may have attempted to place him under arrest because there was a scuffle at that time. For a brief period of time, they stopped, it started again and that’s when the incident went down, and it got obviously much worse.”

Phillips pulled out a gun, at which point he and Officer Johnson exchanged gunfire, Sheriff Rutherford said.

Officer Johnson was hit in the head during the gun battle, while Phillips was shot twice in the abdomen and chest area, according to the sheriff.

The gunmen then fled the scene in the Durango.

Phillips was apprehended by police at a second location on Garrison Avenue a short while later, WCHS reported.

He remained hospitalized in unknown condition early Wednesday morning, according to WOWK.

Investigators have not announced what charges he will face for the shooting.

“I couldn’t imagine it would be anything less than a murder charge, but again, that’s totally up to Charleston’s final investigation and the prosecutor’s office,” Sheriff Rutherford told WSAZ. “I couldn’t imagine it being anything less than that.”

According to police, Phillips was out of jail on a personal recognizance bond at the time of the attack, WCHS reported.

Over 70 law enforcement officers responded to the scene to help the wounded officer in the aftermath of the shooting, according to WHCS.

Many more gathered at the Charleston Area Medical Center to support her and her family in the hours that followed.

“Officer Johnson was struck in what would normally be a killer wound, but in the true fighting spirit of the Charleston Police Department and those who are truly called to serve, she has a pulse,” Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt said during a press conference outside the hospital on Tuesday night, according to WOWK.

“I thank God every moment she’s still with us,” Chief Hunt said.

She underwent surgery late Tuesday afternoon, but her condition did not improve.

Chief Hunt confirmed early Wednesday evening that Officer Johnson would not survive her wounds, WBOY reported.

“She is still fighting, but her body is unable to sustain life by itself,” he said at the time.

Officer Johnson, an organ donor, was removed from life support at approximately 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, WBOY reported.

Her mother, Sheryl, addressed the community during a prayer vigil held at Laidley Field later that evening, WSAZ reported.

Sheryl said her daughter was always one who chose to do what was right.

“But I never dreamed until this happened how many people in this community loved her,” she said, breaking into tears. “And that means more to me than anything in this world.”

Sheryl said Officer Johnson loved the city of Charleston.

“She loved her job, and she tried to protect everybody,” the grieving mother said. “I love my daughter.”

Officer Johnson worked as a humane officer with the city prior to joining the Charleston Police Department (CPD) on Jan. 11, 2019, WOWK reported.

After her swearing-in ceremony nearly two years ago, Officer Johnson told reporters that becoming a law enforcement officer had been a longtime goal for her.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a while and I am happy to see it come to fruition,” she told WOWK at the time. “I’ve been working extremely hard over the last year to get ready for it. I am really happy to finally getting to follow my dreams in working with Charleston PD.”

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said Officer Johnson was “a hero in every way,” WBOY reported.

The CPD announced on Thursday that it will be retiring Officer Johnson’s unit number in honor of her service and sacrifice, WSAZ reported.

“All members of the Charleston Police Department are issued a unit number and it signifies their seniority and rank. Patrolman Cassie Johnson’s unit number is 146,” Chief Hunt said. “I am officially giving the order to retire unit number 146 on the Charleston Police Department’s roster. The Charleston Police Department roster will forever reflect “In Memory – Cassie Johnson” beside the now retired unit number.”

A fundraising campaign established to help Officer Johnson’s family in the wake of her death has raised over $25,500 so far.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Charleston Police Department Officer Cassie Johnson, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Officer Cassie Johnson, your life mattered.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin


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