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Hero Down: Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson Murdered By Gunman

Tulsa, OK – Tulsa Police Department (TPD) Sergeant Craig Johnson died in the line of duty on Tuesday after being repeatedly shot while backing up an officer on a traffic stop the day prior.

The fatal encounter began at approximately 3:20 a.m. on Monday, when Tulsa police stopped David Ware near 21st and Memorial for allegedly driving his blue Chevy Cobalt with expired paper tags, KTUL reported.

Bodycam video showed that when the officers told Ware that his vehicle would have to be towed, he refused to get out of his car and began arguing with the officers and claimed they were violating his rights.

The argument escalated and after three minutes, one of the officers deployed a Taser at Ware, KTUL reported.

But Ware tore out the prongs and kept arguing, according to the affidavit.

The officer deployed pepper spray at Ware, but still he refused to get out of his car, KTUL reported.

That’s when the officers went hands on and tried to pull the driver out of the vehicle.

Ware fought the officers and reached under the car seat for a gun, KTUL reported.

The affidavit said neither officer realized Ware had a gun until he began shooting at them.

Ware shot 45-year-old Sgt. Johnson and 26-year-old Officer Aurash Zarkeshan both three times, according to KTUL.

Then, after both officers were down, Ware stood over one of the wounded officers and shot him three more times, according to the arrest affidavit.

Police said Ware fled the scene and got into a red Jeep SUV, KTUL reported.

A manhunt ensued, with officers from multiple agencies assisting in the search for Ware.

He was captured at about 11 a.m. in the area of 31st and Garnett, KOCO reported.

Police said officers surrounded a home where they believed Ware was located and the suspect surrendered.

His alleged getaway driver, Matthew Hall, has also been arrested, KOTV reported.

Sgt. Johnson and Officer Zarkeshan were rushed to a hospital in critical condition, Tulsa World reported.

Both had been shot multiple times in the head and torso, police said.

Officer Zarkeshan’s condition improved somewhat on Tuesday, and he was able to move his feet and respond to questions from medical personnel, a TPD spokesperson told Tulsa World.

After arriving at the hospital, Sgt. Johnson was rushed into emergency surgery, the TPD said in a press release on Tuesday.

His prognosis did not improve after the procedure, and Sgt. Johnson was subsequently placed on life support in order to give his family time to be with him, according to his department.

“Today, June 30, 2020, in a decision made with his family, Craig’s organs will be donated as his final act of service for our community,” the TPD said.

Sgt. Johnson passed away at 1:19 p.m.

Prior to his death, TPD Chief Wendell Franklin presented Sgt. Johnson with the TPD’s Purple Heart in recognition of his sacrifice for the community.

Ware has been charged with first-degree murder, shooting with intent to kill, and possession of a firearm after a former conviction of a felony in connection with the shooting death of Sgt. Johnson, KOTV reported.

Hall has been charged with accessory to murder, as well as an additional accessory charge.

Sgt. Johnson joined the TPD in 2005, and worked at the Mingo Valley Division until he was promoted to the rank of sergeant 10 years later, the TPD said in a press release.

He was assigned to the Gilcrease Division as a divisional investigator after his promotion, and remained in that position until he went to work as the graveyard shift supervisor back at the Mingo Valley Division in August of 2019.

“Craig’s passing is a tremendous loss to the department and the community he served,” the TPD said.

Sgt. Johnson leaves behind his wife and two young sons, as well as his parents.

He is also survived by “hundreds of his brothers and sisters” at the TPD, according to the department.

“Sergeant Johnson was a good man who made our lives better, who trained his fellow officers to be better,” Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum said in the press release. “As our city mourns, the best thing we can do is to be there for his family – and especially his wonderful boys.”

“Tulsa is a city that loves and honors heroes,” Bynum continued. “Today, we feel the tremendous pain of losing one. In the days ahead, I hope that both the Johnson family and the men and women of the Tulsa Police Department will feel our city gathered around them – showing the same love for them that Sergeant Johnson showed for us.”

The mayor ordered that flags be lowered at all city facilities in honor of the sacrifice made by Sgt. Johnson and his family.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt said in a statement on Tuesday that the shootings were “a senseless act of violence,” according to Tulsa World.

“My hope is that Sgt. Johnson is forever remembered for the heroism, courage and bravery he displayed while protecting Tulsa for 15 years,” Stitt wrote. “Our law enforcement officers need the support of their community now more than ever, and I encourage Oklahomans to find ways to show their support for those who keep them protected.”

Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Norther District of Oklahoma, said that Sgt. Johnson and Officer Zarkeshan both represent how essential law enforcement officers are to communities as a whole, Tulsa World reported.

“Brave men and women like Sgt. Johnson and Officer Aurash Zarkeshan make up the thin blue line that stands between order and chaos,” Shores said. “Sgt. Johnson’s death will not lessen our resolve, but rather reaffirm the collective duty of all those in law enforcement to serve and protect. May God bless Sergeant Johnson and all of our nation’s police officers.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Tulsa Police Department Sergeant Craig Johnson, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Sergeant Craig 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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