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Top stories of 2013: Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson shot and killed


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DRAPER — Three months ago, Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. His death, and the community response, is one of the top stories of 2013.

Just before 6:00 in the morning on Sept. 1, residents of a Draper neighborhood near 13200 South Fort Street heard gunshots and called 911. Sgt. Johnson had been shot, and would later die at the hospital.

"When I woke up this morning, it was like this was all just a nightmare and I'd wake up and find out that it wasn't true," said Lori Mastro Johnson, Derek Johnson's aunt.

The community honored him that very night at a candlelight vigil.

"He always wanted to be a police officer, since he was 3 or 4," said Diana Ortega, another of Sgt. Johnson's aunts. "He wanted to serve. It was what he always wanted to do."

Ten thousand people stood inside the Maverik Center on Sept. 6 as Sgt. Johnson's family entered, walking beside his casket. During the funeral service, family members, friends and fellow law enforcement officers remembered him as a dedicated public servant, a loyal friend, and a man who loved his family.

"I love you, Bub, and I'm so proud of you for giving your life for what you loved," Desirae Johnson said to her deceased brother.

"God speed, Sgt. Johnson," his brother, Darrin Johnson, added. "I love you."

Following the funeral service, a procession traced through the city of Draper, touching the streets Johnson patrolled. Draper dispatchers then called out on the radio for him one last time.

Over the next few days, details of the investigation began to unfold. Prosecutors charged Timothy Troy Walker with aggravated murder.

Police say he and his former girlfriend, Traci Vaillancourt, were in the vehicle Sgt. Johnson approached when he was shot. After firing at Johson, investigators believe Walker shot Vaillancourt in the back and then turned the gun on himself.

Since he was well enough to appear in court, Walker has been seen multiple times with a device that appears to be holding his jaw together.

Vaillancourt was charged with obstructing justice. But her defense team and her family maintain she is a victim in the case.

"We've talked to her about where the case is going, and she's encouraged by where we're going to go in the case," said Matthew Kober, Vaillancourt's attorney.

A preliminary hearing for Walker is scheduled for May; Vaillancourt will appear again in court Jan. 14.

In December, Sgt. Johnson's family donated a tree in his honor to the Utah Festival of Trees. It was decorated with police handcuffs, ornaments wrapped with the ribbons they wore to his funeral, and challenge coins sent in from law enforcement agencies all around the world. The tree now stands in Draper City Hall.

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Devon Dolan

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