Memorials, Vigils Set for Slain San Jose Police Officer

UPDATE: Public funeral services for Officer Michael Johnson have been set for 11am April 2 at the SAP Center

Outside the San Jose Police Department, a black banner emblazoned with Officer Michael Johnson's face and badge number marks his end of watch: March 24, 2015.

Beneath it, a collection of flowers, notes and candles continues to grow. A steady stream of visitors pay their respects.

Nearby Burnett Middle School paid homage to the fallen officer with a special message on its marquee.

On Wednesday, a procession of police, family and community members paid tribute to Johnson by lining the streets while his body was escorted from the coroner's office to a funeral home in Los Gatos. A cohort from the Santa Cruz Police Department, which lost a pair of officers in the line of duty two years ago, came with flowers.

ESCORTING A BROTHER IN BLUE: As the body of slain San Jose Police Department Officer Michael Johnson was escorted to a...

Posted by ABC7 News on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meanwhile, community members have organized a number of vigils and tributes to memorialize Johnson, who was gunned down Tuesday night by a man with a high-powered rifle—the department's first line-of-duty death in 14 years.

The first memorial is set for 6:30pm tonight on the 2600 block of Senter Road in San Jose, right outside the apartments where police say a suicidal gunman killed the officer.

"The ultimate sacrifice of Office Michael Johnson is a painful reminder of the risk of injury and even death that our officers must face every day while providing safety to our residents," said Thuy Dang, president of the United Viet American Neighbors, the group organizing the gathering. "We can never forget the selfless service and ultimate sacrifice of these brave men and women in uniforms."

A second vigil starts tonight at 8 outside City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose.

"We have suffered a very devastating loss to our community, and we need to show Office Johnson's family and the SJPD that we support them," said Kathleen Flynn, president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association, the group pulling together the City Hall vigil with the Star of David Ministries.

Earlier today, from noon to 2pm, CreaTV is opening its downtown San Jose studios, 255 W. Julian St., so the public can share their thoughts on what Johnson's death means to them. Those messages will be cablecast on Channel 30.

San Jose Shark and co-owner of the Brittania Arms Owen Nolan will host a fundraiser in support of the officer's family from 11am to 2pm April 2 at the pub, 5027 Almaden Expressway, also in San Jose.

Throughout, the San Jose Police Officers Association has received an outpouring of support for Johnson's family, to help pay for burial costs and other expenses. To make a donation online, or for information on where to send a check, click here.

Johnson was fatally shot late Tuesday after responding to a 9-1-1 call about a possibly drunk suicidal man with access to a couple of handguns and a high-powered rifle.

Upon arriving to the apartment just before 7 that evening, Johnson was met with a bullet fired from a second-story balcony. The shooter: 57-year-old retired college custodian Scott Dunham, who had a history of mental illness and domestic violence.

Dunham died from a round fired back by Officer Doug Potwora, a 16-year veteran and one of the first cops on scene with Johnson.

Johnson is survived by his wife. The couple had no children.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

21 Comments

    • Tom,

      Let us please show our respect for the this fallen hero, Michael Johnson this week and his family before we take on any other issues. I knew Officer Johnson and he deserves the respect as do all the officers how have died in the line of duty to serve us in San Jose.

      Kathleen, and all SJPD officers, who have posted, I feel your pain knowing 8 of the fallen. God Bless you all for what you do. It is a time to help the family and put aside our feelings other than that to the family and fellow officers.

      God Bless all of you at SJPD, I know this is hard as well to all the dispatchers during these critical calls. The officers could not do it without you.

      • Hey retired,

        Again, apologies for being a jerk in the other thread. I was there tonight, and the range and intensity of emotion I felt was pretty hard to process. Probably the most prevalent is rage. There’s some sadness, and an overall sense of “What else is there to say?”

        I want you to know that I cannot understand what you must be feeling right now. Tonight made me think a lot about the job you, your brothers and sisters do. Thank you. Thank you for keeping this world safe for me and my family.. Thank all of you for the risk you take everyday doing it. Thank you for being our protectors and guardians of San Jose life and diversity.

        I would hate to think of a world without you guys. Being there made me realize even more how important policing is.

        Thank you. Be safe, and sleep well.

        • No worries, I apologies to you as well. Life is to short, no more jerk comments coming from this end. Thanks for the update. Did not attend last night, too many raw nerves after attending too many officer funerals but will be there Thursday. Any fallen officer is hard to burden, especially when you know them personally.

          God Bless

  1. Thank you for posting this. It is very important that we show our respect for this hero, his family, and for our law enforcement. Rest in peace Officer Johnson. Thank you for your service.

    • Kathleen,

      A shout out of thanks to the SJPD who have 2 officers standing in honor of Officer Johnson 24/7 at his temporary place of rest in Los Gatos. This is such a class act. I hope anyone passing by will stop and thank these officers. I also want to thank Los Gatos/Monte Sereno PD for all that they have done to assist in the transition.These are outstanding officers as well as their great new Chief Of Police.

      Thank you all.

      • Retired,

        The response I received from numerous citizens while I was standing watch at the funeral home was humbling to say the least. I was thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of the detail, and to have that type of response from citizens of a different city was almost overwhelming. I cannot thank Darling-Fischer and their staff enough for the level of support and hospitality they have shown during our time spent there.

        • Thank you for your service and may you always be safe and have a great career, but let family always come first. One nine eight one in memory of all fallen officers.

      • RETIRED- May I please have the address? I’d like to drive by and thank the Officers.

        Just an FYI~ Today, we dedicated our event, commemorating the LAST Freedom Train, to Officer Johnson’s memory. We shared a moment of silence, then Pastor Sanchez said a prayer for all of you! It was very powerful.

          • Thank you so much Retired.

            “My last post, due to SJI rules.” SJI, what rules do you have regarding posting limits? WTH?

  2. URGENT!!! Parking at tonight’s vigil at City Hall:
    The parking garage at City Hall will be CLOSED!
    PLEASE park in the surrounding parking garages!
    Please use public transit when possible or carpool.
    PLEASE do NOT block people’s driveways, or parking in business’s parking lots!

    Thank you!

  3. I want to thank everyone who came out to tonight’s vigil at City Hall. The attendance was overwhelming! We had almost 300-400 people by the end of the vigil.

    Thank you to the Officers who came and allowed us the privilege of sharing their grief. Please be safe out there, and thank you for your service.

    We have some great photos of the vigil on our Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001204761555. Please feel free to look at them.

    Please join us in honoring Officer Johnson by turning your front lights on in the evening. Please go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/889697521089604/permalink/891329207593102/, to find out more.

    Rest in peace Officer Johnson. God bless~

  4. There’s been a lot of conversation surrounding the murder of Officer Johnson. One of the things I want to ask is that we recognize his death for what it was; a coldblooded MURDER. For me, somehow, saying ‘Fallen’ or ‘Slain’ fails to capture the essence of what really happened. The reality is that a psychopath murdered him, deliberately, in cold blood. The MURDERER laid in wait and ASSASSINATED a husband, a son, an uncle, an honorable man, a police officer.

    Can we call it what it is? The murder of a police officer, and not just that he had ‘fallen’ or been ‘slain’, as though it was some kind of accident?

  5. Just heard that ONLY Motorcycles from any and all agencies will be allowed in the procession BUT no SJPD patrol cars. Also that swing shift officers (same as officer Johnson) must report to work after the services. Outside agencies covering the day shift but NOT the swing shift. That just seems so wrong , truly pathetic

      • Disgusted in SJ said, “Also that swing shift officers (same as officer Johnson) must report to work after the services. Outside agencies covering the day shift but NOT the swing shift. That just seems so wrong , truly pathetic.”

        I think this practice and expectation of swing shift Officers who will have had very little sleep, who will be grieving the loss of their brother after they leave his funeral, and go back to work, as more than wrong, and truly pathetic. I think it is dangerous.

        I am sure that if SJPD is accepting the assistance of other agencies during the day so that Officers can attend Officer Johnson’s funeral, then they could accept offers of these outside agencies to cover the ENTIRE day. Clearly, upper management either didn’t think this through properly, or they don’t have a clue about the reality of the dangers they are putting both Officers and the public in.

        I lost my little brother the day after Officer Johnson was murdered. I had a very difficult time putting Friday’s prayer vigil at City Hall together after my brother’s death. I cannot imagine getting into a patrol car and dealing with rapes, child molestations, suicides, DV, car wrecks, gangs, homicides that DO NOT make the news, and all the other things Officers do everyday in the line of duty.

        Further, in the private sector, any company losing an employee would not only would close down the business that day, they would bring in grief counselors, and offer employees, at the very least, a day off to deal with their loss. While I understand that the Police Department cannot shut its doors so that Officers can grieve the loss of their brother, they could have accepted help from outside agencies so swing shift Officers could leave the funeral and grieve the loss of their brother.

        I for one am dam sick and tired of seeing our Police and Fire Fighters being treated with so little respect and compassion. Our public safety servants are human beings not robots. If you Officers out there feel anything like I do about the loss of my brother, than to expect you to serve and protect while suffering such a huge loss is beyond WRONG and PATHETIC, it is outrageous. Shame on whomever is in charge for making this idiotic call. No decent Officer is going to call off, when they know how short handed our Police Department is, and how bad crime has gotten in our City.

        In closing let me just say this, Officers, PLEASE be safe out there. You are in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow and always. Thank you for your service.

  6. Anyone who is interested in making a direct donation to the family of Officer Michael Johnson may do so using this website. Although the goal has nearly been reached, there are no issues if there are donations in excess of the initial goal which has been set.

    Thank you, in advance.

    https://www.healthdonor.com/campaigns/mjohnson3718/