'True servant' was wrapping up final graveyard shift when he was shot
Friday funeral for Sgt. Derek Johnson now moved to Maverik Center
Ravell Call, Deseret News
DRAPER — Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson was just 10 minutes away from finishing his final graveyard shift.
He was headed back to the Draper Police Department just before 6 a.m. Sunday and was about 30 seconds away from pulling into the parking lot, when he came across a vehicle stopped in the road on 13200 South.
Seconds later, without warning, Johnson was shot multiple times, according to police, and later died from his injuries.
Family members said Wednesday that he had been looking forward to being in charge of search and rescue operations in Corner Canyon. That new job would have started this week when he would have switched to a day shift.
Darin Johnson described his brother Wednesday as a "true servant of the community."
"When my brother put his uniform on, that's what he loved to do," he told the Deseret News. "Just smiled, was ready to go to work. He was ready to lead his crew of guys. He was so proud to be a sergeant.
"I think when you take the time to treat people with the respect that they deserve, they remember you. And my brother always gave people the respect they deserved. And he would shake their hand and introduce himself and look you square in the eye. And that made an impact on so many people," Darin Johnson said.
Derek Johnson's desire to be a police officer started when he was a young boy. For a sixth-grade class assignment, his father recalled, "he said that when he grows up, he either wants to be a policeman or a fireman.
"He's wanted to be police all his life. He used to have a scanner that he set up and listen to all the police calls come in. He knew all the codes," Randy Johnson said.
Derek Johnson graduated from Alta High School. He married his middle school sweetheart, Shante, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple in 2000 shortly after high school.
"They just hit it off," Johnson's father said of the first time his son met his future wife. "Those two, they were a team."
In 2006, Derek and Shante had a son, Bensen Ray. Randy Johnson said his son always referred to his boy, who is now 6, as his "little buddy," and would remind him often that he loved him.
Shante Johnson was at Swiss Days in Summit County when the family began to hear that a Draper police officer had been shot Sunday morning. And then they learned that officers were driving to Midway.
"At that point, we were concerned," Randy Johnson conceded.
"She's solid," Randy Johnson said of how his daughter-in-law has been holding up since the shooting. "She has a tremendous faith. She also has a love for the police department and also for what they do. She is struggling over what will life bring now. She has a young son (and wonders) how will she bring comfort to him and also keep the remembrance of their dad."
Ben, his son, cried for about five minutes when he was told what happened to his father, Johnson said. But then he was drawn away to play with new Legos he had received, indicating that the 6-year-old hasn't fully grasped what happened, he said.
Starting Thursday, members of the public and law enforcement officers from across the country are expected to descend on Utah to pay their last respects to the man who paid the ultimate price while protecting and serving his community.
Funeral services for Johnson were changed again Wednesday from the Salt Palace Convention Center to the Maverik Center in West Valley City because of concerns about Salt Lake Comic Con taking place at the same time at the Salt Palace and other large events occurring in downtown Salt Lake City.
A viewing for Johnson will be held Thursday and the funeral on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. Randy Johnson said the funeral will provide an opportunity for both his son's immediate family and his law enforcement family to honor his service.
"Our desire is to have this a celebration of Derek's life, to remember the impact he's had on people," the officer's father said. "I think it's healing for all of the police officers to have an opportunity to able to hear the things that will be said, to be able to recognize there is so much good they do everyday."
Many of Derek Johnson's immediate family members are expected to speak or offer prayers at the service. The family is also hoping stories about Johnson will be left at www.mydadsahero.com.
The entire Draper Police Department has been on leave since the incident to mourn their fallen brother, with officers from other agencies handling their calls. The exception has been officers taking shifts standing watch over Shante Johnson's house until the funeral as a tribute to her husband, and officers making a traditional watch over Johnson's body until the funeral.
Derek started his career of service early, getting a job as a security officer at Classic Skating in Sandy. He also worked for a brief time as a 911 dispatcher before being hired as a police officer. Johnson spent the majority of his career with the Draper Police Department, but also worked for brief periods for the Alpine-Lone Peak Police Department and Saratoga Springs, according to his family.
During his career, he worked in everything from SWAT to K-9s to the Joint Criminal Apprehension Team to being a graffiti expert, his family said.
Police believe that after shooting Johnson while the officer was still in his patrol car, Timothy Troy Walker, 35, also shot Traci Lee Vaillancourt, 34, before turning the gun on himself. Both remained hospitalized in critical conditions Wednesday.
Not only is Johnson the first Draper officer to be killed in the line of duty, his father said even having to draw a weapon was unusual for a Draper officer. Despite the city being relatively free of most big-city problems, Johnson said, his son was always careful.
"Derek had always talked about how domestic-type disputes were always the most difficult for a police officer," he said.
Johnson deeply cared about his community, his brother recalled, and would take the time to knock on a resident's door if he spotted an open garage in an effort to prevent crimes from happening.
"He felt a very strong sense that he grew up here, he was raised here, he wanted to preserve that community," Darin Johnson said.
A memorial fund for Johnson as been set up at Wells Fargo Bank locations under the Sgt. Johnson Memorial Fund. Donations can also be made online at www.mydadsahero.com.
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