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Community says goodbye to fallen officer

'I know you are always with us,' sister says of fallen officer

Published: Friday, Sept. 6 2013 6:00 p.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Sept. 5 2014 8:59 a.m. MDT

Honor guard members salute during the funeral for Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson at Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. Johnson was shot and killed in the line of duty.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — Remembering him as a dedicated public servant who always had a trademark smile on his face no matter what he was doing, a community said goodbye Friday to fallen Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson.

But while his physical presence is missed, his family said they know Johnson is with them. Desirae Johnson called her brother her "guardian angel" and said she felt him with her when she went running the morning he was shot and killed.

"I love you and I am so proud of you for giving your life to what you loved and believe in. I promise I will never forget you and look for signs of you wherever I go," she said. "I know you are always with us, watching over us and will protect us."

Johnson's brother, Darin Johnson, asked the audience to pause to feel his brother's presence at the Maverik Center.

"He's here with us," he said.

The funeral services were held at the Maverik Center. Johnson was killed Sunday morning while driving back to the police station to end his shift. He came across a broken-down vehicle with two people and was shot multiple times without warning while he was still in his patrol car.

"There's not a moment that will go by that I will ever forget you. I love you," Darin Johnson said, speaking directly to his brother at the funeral.

A common theme among many of the speakers, as well as those who knew Johnson who attended the funeral, was his broad and infectious smile.

"Most of you know Derek as a smiling man," his sister-in-law Amanda Fralick told the congregation after tearfully reading his obituary. "Please make sure you smile today because that's what he would want."

Though Friday was meant to celebrate the life of a man who everyone agreed served his community nonstop, there were many tears in what was overall a solemn ceremony.

Six bagpipe players led Johnson's casket into the arena, draped with an American flag. His widow, Shante Johnson, followed while carrying their 6-year-old son, Bensen Ray, who had his arms tightly wrapped around his mother's neck and his head buried in her shoulder.

Johnson was remembered as a dedicated family man as well as one of the hardest working officers in the Draper Police Department.

"He could spot a criminal anywhere, and frankly I did not like working overtime shifts with him because we'd never go home. He'd keep catching bad guys," said Draper Police Sgt. Pat Evans. "He was the best."

Evans and Johnson were each other's best men at their weddings. They grew up together, lived together for awhile and entered law enforcement careers together.

"Derek was the hardest working person I ever met, and probably ever will. And I'm very proud to say he was my best friend," he said. "Derek was the ultimate go-to guy. … We will never fill the void Derek left behind."

Despite working all those hours at the department, Johnson still found time to help his neighbors with Christmas lights and other tasks, Evans said.

"There's all these people running around downtown right now dressed like superheroes. We've got the superhero right here," he said, referring to the ComiCon convention in Salt Lake City.

Just before the tragic shooting, Evans was leaving for a vacation in Alaska. Johnson sent him a text before he left: "Dispatch is calling you, it's time to go." Johnson was in Alaska when he heard the news about the shooting and he went immediately home. Friday, he "returned" Johnson's text message.

"Derek, heaven is calling you, it's time to go. Godspeed, my buddy."

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