Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why Hasn’t this Tragedy “Gone Mainstream” Yet?

I usually stick to the area I know (San Francisco Bay Area), but I tripped over this story and wanted to open this for discussion.

Over the past month there have been numerous protests over the Oscar Grant BART incident. Are Bay Area people the only ones who protest incidents where the police are involved?

On December 8, 2008, in Lucedale, Mississippi, 17-year old star high school football player Billey Joe Johnson, Jr. died from what is said to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being stopped in the early-morning hours after he was observed by law enforcement running a red light. Johnson was a college-bound kid bound for Auburn University after his high school graduation, and a no-doubt limitless future.

For reasons unknown, he had gone to see his on-again, off-again [white] girlfriend in the very early morning hours, and the girlfriend’s mother called the authorities saying the boy was trying to break into the home. (The girlfriend’s mother was not on the scene, but she called 911 after receiving a phone call from her daughter reporting that Johnson was outside of the trailer the girl shared with her father.)

Before that call even went over the radio, George County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Sullivan had already observed Johnson running a red light and initiated pursuit. The officer observed Johnson’s 1999 Chevy truck run also through a 4-way stop. Johnson did not yield to the officer's lights, and a 1 ½ mile chase ensued.

This would all be so easy if the sheriff’s car had a camera in place. I can’t find any media account that says if cameras were normally in use in George County or if this officer didn’t have one or didn’t have it turned on.

What we do know is Johnson ended up dead on a service road leading into Benndale Carpets of what the officer says was a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.

I encourage readers to check out the links I’ve provided and make your own conclusions. I admit that usually I give law enforcement the benefit of a doubt, but in this case, I’m not so sure.

At any rate, certainly the family of Billey Joe Johnson, Jr. deserves an honest investigation into their son’s death.

I invite anyone who lives in the region to add their observations to this story.

Who shot Billey Joe Johnson?
Mississippi family looks for answers in son's death
Documents associated with the case
Family of Mississippi Athlete Hires The Cochran Firm


Dom and Nan said...

The kid certainly had a bright future, but I'm not certain that he was an "angel".

I live in rural Southern Mississippi, and this case was covered quite a bit.

There are allegations that this young man had just broken into a home. (And that perhaps he killed himself thinking that he just screwed up his future).

Anyway, I tend to side with the cops on this one.

Again, love your blog and visit often!

CaliGirl9 said...

Thanks, Dom and Nan. There wasn't a whole lot available out there, and I do tend to come down on the side of law enforcement. I wasn't sure which way to think. I had heard nothing about this case until tripping over the Yahoo! story yesterday.

Teenage males are certainly impulsive and all too often do not adhere to logical thinking. Still, a very sad story for everyone involved.

Please keep us informed about this case unfolds, if you do not mind.

katfish said...

However this story unfolds, it is a tragedy and very sad. Thanks for giving it the attention it deserves. The circumstances of this case seem to merit extra scrutiny because protocals were'nt followed by LE. I'm glad to hear that the Johnson family does have confidence in the state police and I hope they get answers to their questions.

DJ said...

I honestly don't believe this case was investigated fairly. I mean he was an African American who dated a white girl on and off. And, I can tell you here in the south interracial relationships are frowned upon..especially in the rural deep south. Im a southern girl born and raised and George county, Lucedale, MS consist of racist people who I can assure you didn't approve of this relationship. It just doesn't make can you get a self inflicted gunshot to the head with a 12 gauge shotgun???... I think it should have been ruled a homicide..the sheriff deputy had gun residue on his from my understanding you can only get this if actually fire a gun..!!..

Sprocket said...


Let me explain a bit about gunshot residue (GSR) before I close comments on this old story.

For many years now, the FBI no longer tests for GSR. That's because criminalists now know that testing for GSR on your hands doesn't necessarily mean you fired a weapon. It has to do with physical properties of GSR.

GSR can be easily transferred from object to object. And, just being in the vicinity of a weapon that has been fired recently, you could get GSR on you.

Let's say, you fired a weapon and killed someone. You then came to my house, came over and touched several things in my home. While you were there and after you left, I touched those same objects you touched. The door knob, the sink faucet, picture frames, etc., you name it, even clothing. By touching the objects you touched, you could easily have left GSR on them. When I touched those objects, I could easily have picked up the GSR.

If you are around weapons, it's a good possibility that you will have some GSR particles on you.

A LE officer, who carries a weapon that is regularly fired at a shooting range (most officers need to periodically qualify their shooting skills at a range with the weapon they carry) will have GSR on them.

In Los Angeles County, after arrest of Robert Blake for the murder of his wife, LA County coroner criminalists did some experimental testing on GSR transfer.

Their tests showed that just sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser, with your hands cuffed behind your back, individuals who had never fired a weapon were able to pick up GSR on their hands. That's transfer.