WEST JORDAN — In an unexpected move, the man accused of gunning down Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson 10 months ago pleaded guilty Tuesday and was immediately sentenced to prison for life.
The plea spares Timothy Troy Walker from receiving a possible death sentence if he had gone to trial and were convicted. But Johnson's family said rather than dragging the case through the appeals courts for years, they can now focus solely on Derek's memory.
"Today the streets are safer because the man that shot Derek is off the streets and can't harm anyone else. We're grateful for this resolution because it was a quick resolution," Derek Johnson's father, Randy Johnson, said outside the courtroom after the hearing. "If the courts were different and it wouldn't take forever to pursue possibly the death penalty, we would have considered that. But this is the very best scenario. We can be done, and we can now move forward and just celebrate Derek's life and what he provided for us."
Walker, 34, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, for killing Derek Johnson, and attempted murder, a first-degree felony, for shooting his girlfriend, Traci Vaillancourt; and three counts of felony discharge of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, all third-degree felonies. The sentences for the other counts were ordered to run consecutively.
"The next time you leave the penitentiary will be after your death. You will never walk out again," Judge Mark Kouris said as he sentenced Walker. "In our society we have so few heroes, and yet you took one away from us. The reality is we have no winners today."
On Sept. 1, Derek Johnson was 10 minutes away from finishing his graveyard shift and just a couple of blocks from the Draper Police Station when he stopped to assist a vehicle involved in an apparent crash near 13200 S. Fort St.
Walker, a known drug user who had been using drugs prior to the shooting, ambushed Derek Johnson and shot him through the open passenger window before the sergeant had time to react. Walker continued to shoot as Derek Johnson attempted to drive away. Walker then shot Vaillancourt in the back before turning the gun on himself.
For many months following the shooting, Walker had his mouth wired shut as he healed from his self-inflicted gunshot wound. Tuesday, an apparently remorseful Walker spoke to the court and apologized for his actions.
"There are no excuses for my conduct. There's nothing I can do to bring him back. The harm I've caused is irrevocable and extensive," a teary Walker said. "I'm here today to take responsibility for my actions.
"The battle for my life is over. The battle for my soul has only begun," he said. "I can only hope others will learn for my terrible mistakes."
Walker switched between gazing off at the ceiling and keeping his head hung low as members of Derek Johnson's family addressed the court. He was visibly crying when the sergeant's parents spoke.
Randy Johnson said he believed Walker's remorse was genuine.
"No matter how it turned out, we did want this one opportunity to see Mr. Walker. It seemed genuine, and I hope that he moves forward with his life," he said. "Our whole purpose in all of this is not to dwell on where Mr. Walker is at or where he is going, but rather on our son's life and also trying to provide back to the community.
"But we do wish him the best, and we hope he will do as much good as possible where he's at, which will be difficult. Where he's going, it's tough to contribute to society at this point. He went past that opportunity."
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