Community says goodbye to fallen officer
'I know you are always with us,' sister says of fallen officer
Elder Mervyn B. Arnold, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Seventy, said it didn't take long for him to learn from talking to other officers about Johnson's great community service work.
"He could make a difficult situation as best as it could be," he said. "God gave him such a great sense of humor. God gave him such a great nature."
"He was a hard worker. I had to send him home a lot of times. 'Just go home. You've been here all day and all night. Go home and be with your family.' And that's the kind of guy he was. He never stopped," said Draper Assistant Police Chief Russ Adair. "That's the kind of guy he was, and we're going to miss him dearly. It's going to be tough to replace him."
His father, Randy Johnson, read a paper Johnson had written for an assignment in sixth grade. Even then, he wrote that he wanted to be an officer, "because I hate to see people rob stores or steal."
"I'm truly going to miss Derek," his father said.
Sometimes, Johnson's smile was a "mischievous smile," his friends and family joked, that couldn't always be read. Generally, it meant the practical jokester was plotting his next prank.
Desirae Johnson joked about how her brother would "practice" being a police officer when they were kids by hitting her pressure points, knocking her down and then handcuffing her to a dresser. But her brother was also the one who always stood up for her.
"Derek was my protector. I felt safe knowing he was my brother. I felt safe because he took care of me," she said. "He was proud to make the world a little bit more peaceful every time that he worked."
Three weeks ago, all of the Johnson brothers and their father were able to spend time together when they went on an annual hunting trip. Randy Johnson said they aren't very good at bow hunting. But they've made it a tradition to all set aside time to be together.
Hundreds of officers, all wearing black bands across their badges, attended Friday's services. Several thousand attended overall.
Draper Mayor Darrell Smith said Johnson reminded him of Robin Hood.
"He certainly always gave more than he ever expected to receive," he said.
Smith referred to a time when he watched Johnson conduct police K-9 training and get tackled and dragged to the ground by a service dog. "Just getting that Sgt. Johnson smile as if to say, 'Man that was fun,'" he recalled.
Gov. Gary Herbert encouraged everyone to follow the example set by Johnson and "be anxiously engaged in good causes."
Two large TV screens showed a continuous slide show of Johnson and his family as people filed into the arena.
Several tables filled with photos of Johnson and his family were on display. Johnson and his wife met in middle school, and several of the pictures dated back to their high school prom. Other mementos on display included Johnson's law enforcement awards as well as the bow and arrows he went hunting with, his baseball glove and cleats.
Hundreds of motor officers led the funeral procession from the Maverik Center to Larkin Sunset Gardens, 1950 E. 10600 South, for the interment. The procession was so long that the last car was still leaving the arena when the first motorsquad arrived at the cemetery. It took more than an hour to move everyone to the interment.
After dedicating the grave site, officers folded the flag that had covered Johnson's casket into a triangle, placed the shells from the 21-gun salute inside the flag, and presented it to Shante Johnson while Taps played. Additional flags were then presented to Bensen and to Johnson's parents.
Four helicopters flew overhead in a missing man formation, meaning one breaks away from the group and flies off in another direction. A "last call" was then made by dispatchers for Johnson, traditionally an emotional moment at officer funerals when a dispatcher will make a call for Johnson, only to hear silence in reply, and then declare an "end of watch."
After the interment ended, Shante and Bensen Johnson approached Johnson's coffin and each placed a flower on top. Draper police officers then gathered in a group around the casket to say their final goodbyes.
After the ceremony, there were many hugs between officers and their families, and exchanges of "I love you" with family members.
"Today was such a special moment," said a grateful Draper Police Chief Bryan Roberts, reflecting on all the people who lined the streets of Draper for the procession. "Such an incredible outpouring of support. I'm taken back by the services here."
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