DRAPER — As Shante Johnson flipped through photos and shared stories Wednesday of her late husband, Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson, she also expressed amazement at how quickly one year has flown by — and the profound changes it brought.
"You're always very prideful as a police wife,” she said, “but it does take on a new meaning of pride and of reality of how dangerous a simple call can be.”
Shante Johnson said she met Derek Johnson when she was 12 years old and he was 13 years old; the two had a very tight bond. Then, on Sept. 1, 2013, her husband stopped to check on a car on the side of the road and everything changed.
Derek Johnson was 10 minutes away from finishing his graveyard shift and just a couple of blocks from the Draper Police Station when he stopped to assist a vehicle involved in an apparent crash near 13200 S. Fort Street.
The driver, a known drug user who had been using drugs prior to the shooting, ambushed Derek Johnson and shot him through the open passenger window before the sergeant had time to react. He continued to shoot as Derek Johnson attempted to drive away, and then shot his girlfriend in the back before turning the gun on himself.
The shooter, later identified as Timothy Troy Walker, pleaded guilty to the shooting in July and was sentenced to life in prison. His girlfriend, Traci Vaillancourt, also survived her injures. She has a preliminary hearing scheduled for late September with charges of obstruction of justice.
"You just don't realize how often it happens until it happens to you,” Shante Johnson said, “then you realize how often it does occur.”
Every couple of days, an American police officer killed. Since her husband’s death, Shante Johnson said she’s heard from people across the country.
“Things like this affect so many people,” she said.
Derek Johnson’s parents and siblings recalled Wednesday how amazed they were by the showing at his funeral.
"It was beautiful,” said Desirae Payne, the fallen officer’s sister. “It was unbelievable and something I will always be grateful for.”
Derek’s father, Randy Johnson, said he now has a deeper understanding of the brotherhood his son was a part of, and he can see “what incredible people are out there, and the love they have for the community, and the love they have for their work.”
Through the trials and triumphs of this challenging year, the Johnsons have stayed positive — just like their fallen hero always was — and felt the love of prayers from strangers.
The Johnson family, Derek Johnson's police brotherhood and Draper City officials will come together to remember his service and what his death has meant to the community. The public memorial is scheduled for 7p.m. Monday at Draper Historical Park, 12625 S 900 East.
On Sept. 13, the family will host the Fallen Officers Memorial 5K run at Corner Canyon High School, 12943 S 700 East. Runners can register at www.fallenmemorialrun.com; all proceeds will go to the My Dad's a Hero Foundation.
Contributing: Pat Reavy