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Tulsa PD Sergeant Craig Johnson’s Killer Sentenced To Death

Tulsa, OK – The gunman convicted of shooting two Tulsa police officers in their heads, killing one and severely injuring the other, was sentenced to death on Wednesday.

A Tulsa County jury deliberated for just three hours before rendering the death sentence against 34-year-old David Ware on April 27, KOTV reported.

The jury could have alternatively sentenced Ware to life without the possibility of parole or life with the possibility of parole, according to Tulsa World.

The jury also spent slightly less than three hours deliberating last week before convicting Ware on charges of first-degree murder and shooting with intent to kill for the 2020 shooting death of 45-year-old Tulsa Police Sergeant Craig Johnson and the wounding of 26-year-old Tulsa Police Officer Aurash Zarkeshan, according to Tulsa World.

He was further convicted on additional charges of possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute, obstructing an officer, and possession of a firearm after former conviction of a felony.

Ware’s attorney, Kevin Adams, had argued his client was standing his ground against what he felt was unfair and unlawful treatment, and that he shot Sgt. Johnson and Officer Zarkeshan in their heads because he was afraid for his life, Tulsa World reported.

Both officers were shot at close range multiple times, and neither officer drew their weapons during the attack.

District Court Judge Bill LaFortune ruled jurors would not hear instructions on the self-defense consideration because Oklahomans have no legal right to use deadly force to resist an arrest or to resist a traffic stop, Tulsa World reported.

“Today is about accountability,” prosecutors told the jury just before they began deliberations, according to KOTV. “This is not the first time David Ware got violent with police, but it needs to be the last.”

Ware showed no emotion as the death sentence was handed down on Wednesday, KOTV reported.

Sgt. Johnson’s widow, Kristi Johnson, was surrounded by her husband’s fellow Tulsa police officers as she addressed reporters after the hearing, Tulsa World reported.

“I want to thank the jury for all of their time and attention they have given to the case,” the mother of two young boys said, according to KOTV. “I know they had to see a lot of hard things that I imagine will be with them for a long time. I pray they are able to heal from the experience, I thank the DA’s office for all of their hard work.”

“My request at this time is that the silent majority that I have seen and heard from starts speaking up and change the anti-police culture being created,” Kristi Johnson added.

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said the outcome of the case shows law enforcement officers that there are citizens out there who still support them, KOTV reported.

“I think every man and woman in uniform, whether it’s a TPD patch or some other patch, I think this speaks volumes to this piece of cloth that we wear,” Chief Franklin said. “That resonates with all of us, that we do have someone or something bigger than us that is in the background supporting us.”

The fatal shooting occurred while Sgt. Johnson and Officer Zarkeshan were out on a traffic stop near 21st and Memorial at approximately 3:20 a.m. on June 29, 2020, KTUL reported at the time.

Police had stopped Ware for driving his blue Chevy Cobalt with expired paper tags.

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 them, claiming 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, hitting them each three times, according to investigators.

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.

Ware fled the area but was later apprehended at a residence in the area of Garnett and 31st, KOCO reported.

His alleged getaway driver, Matthew Hall, was also 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 their heads and torsos, police said.

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

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. that day, leaving behind his wife and two young sons.

Officer Zarkeshan spent months recovering from his wounds in the hospital and at an out-of-state rehabilitation facility, KOTV reported.

The rookie officer even had to learn to walk again.

Officer Zarkeshan returned to light duty in November of 2020, Tulsa World reported.

“I knew I was coming back,” he told Tulsa World the following month. “It’s just going to take time and hard work.”

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.

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Written by Holly Matkin

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