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Annie Barker, Deseret News

Man who shot 2 Utah deputies knew he'd already had his 'last chance' to stay out of prison

By Pat Reavy, | Updated - Apr. 12, 2021 at 5:39 p.m. | Posted - Apr. 12, 2021 at 4:53 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Joshua Michael Johnson, 31, knew it was his last chance to stay out of prison.

He had been in and out of the Salt Lake County Jail and drug treatment programs for two years when he once again entered a treatment facility on Feb. 3, according to a report from Adult Probation and Parole filed in 3rd District Court.

"He and a case manager worked out a reporting schedule to maintain compliance. He reported he was aware of his court date and agreed completion of the program was his last chance to stay out of prison," the report states. "He expressed his desire to complete the program and remain out of prison."

Yet on the same day that Johnson entered the residential treatment facility and acknowledged it was his final chance, police say he walked away.

"In the evening, he took a telephone call which upset him and he left the facility," the report dated Feb. 19 states. "He has failed to report to AP&P and his current whereabouts are unknown."

Several warrants were issued for Johnson's arrest for failing to comply with the conditions of his probation, including failing to show up for court hearings or contacting Adult Probation and Parole.

On Saturday, Salt Lake County sheriff's deputies Joshua Buerke and Leland Grossett came across Johnson on the lawn outside the sheriff's office and jail complex at the corner of 3300 South and 900 West. While doing a routine check of the area, Johnson shot Grossett in the eye and also shot Buerke, grazing the deputy's cheek, before one or both officers returned fire, killing Johnson.

Details of the deadly confrontation remained under investigation Monday.

Also on Monday, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera announced that despite losing an eye, Grossett was released from the hospital at 2:30 p.m.

"After a devastating injury, I am so relieved that deputy Grossett is being released from the hospital. He has a long recovery ahead and our office will be there to support him," the sheriff said.

More than 10 officers and deputies lined the walkway outside the hospital and saluted as he left the building to his waiting car.

"It was very, very heartwarming," Rivera said of the show of support by the officers.

Grossett's family released their own statement on Sunday.

"One man's life was lost in this shooting and we want to express our condolences to his family. We hope they are able to find peace and know that we harbor no ill will," the Grossett family said in a prepared statement, while adding that their loved one's recovery "is our biggest priority."

"We are thankful that he is alive and looking forward to bringing him home soon," the family said. "Leland's team is amazing. We know that the outcome of this shooting could have been different if it weren't for the team's quick response. We are also grateful for his partner, deputy Joshua Buerke, and are relieved to hear that he is home recovering from his injuries."

Buerke was released from the hospital on Saturday.


Johnson has a lengthy history of drug-related crimes, including drug distribution, according to court records. Under his current probation conditions he was not allowed to be at The Gateway, Pioneer Park or the Road Home shelter.

Johnson was last booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Jan. 1 for allegedly dealing drugs on North Temple near 800 West, according to a police affidavit.

It was the latest in a pattern of being arrested, being placed on probation, failing to comply with the conditions of his probation and drug treatment, and then being rearrested.

Johnson's court history dates back to 2010 when he entered a guilty plea to attempted robbery, court records state.

He was convicted of drug possession in January 2019 and placed on probation. Two months later, he was arrested for a probation violation and new charges and sent to jail for six months. Once he was released, he violated probation again and another arrest warrant was issued, according to an Adult Probation and Parole report.

He was arrested in June 2020 and released 47 days later "without a treatment commitment." After another arrest, he served 70 days in jail and was released to a treatment program but "lasted only four days" because he got into a fight and was kicked out. He was later arrested on another warrant and spent 32 days in jail, the report says.

At the end of his last stint in jail, he was released directly to Odyssey House on Feb. 3 of this year. Johnson acknowledged that completing the program was his "last chance" to stay out of prison, the report states.

But on the same day he arrived, he received a call from his family who told him his stimulus check from the federal government had arrived, "but his brother had cashed it," according to the report.

Johnson, who was upset, was "adamant he needed to leave the facility immediately," the report states. Johnson was escorted to the door and walked out "against clinical advice."

Probation agents contacted Johnson's family and girlfriend who were all surprised he had left the treatment facility and had not heard from him, according to the report.

"Mr. Johnson is now actively refusing to comply with probation," the report states. "He has never cooperated with AP&P and shows a blatant disregard for the privilege of probation."

The report noted this was Johnson's fifth failed attempt at probation and that he was a "poor candidate" for it. The report concluded by recommending Johnson be sent directly to the Utah State Prison once he was arrested again.

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