The tragic case of Kevin Johnson, set to be killed by Missouri this month


Missouri killed Kevin Johnson on Tuesday evening. He was sentenced to death for killing Kirkwood police officer Sgt. William McEntee in 2005, a crime he admitted and expressed remorse for repeatedly over the years. Johnson was 19 at the time and under severe stress brought on by the sudden death of his 12-year-old brother at the scene shortly before the shooting. There is no question that what occurred that day was a tragedy for all involved.  McEntee was the father of three children, but executing Johnson, who was 19 at the time, and was not the same person at 37, continues the cycle of violence that began when Johnson was a child. 

As the Riverfront Times reports, Johnson’s father was incarcerated when Johnson was 16 months old, and his mother, who Johnson says was addicted to crack, lost custody of him when he was four. He was sent to live with an aunt who abused him, finally kicking him out. He ended up in foster care, living in 19 different places in five years, and finally, on his own at 18.

On the day of the killing, Johnson’s younger brother suffered a seizure and died shortly after police arrived at the house looking for Johnson, who had outstanding warrants. Believing the police didn’t try to save his brother and, in fact, that they had stopped a family member from administering CPR, Johnson shot McEntee. He was a 19-year-old grieving the death of his 12-year-old brother, who had died a short time earlier.

Johnson’s first trial ended in a hung jury. His second trial, prosecuted by the same prosecuting attorney, Robert P. McCulloch, whose own father was a police officer killed in the line of duty, ended with a conviction delivered by a predominantly white jury. 

Johnson had no final words before he was executed. His 19-year-old daughter, Khorry Ramey, had sought to witness the execution, but because state law prohibits anyone younger than 21 from observing the process, her request was denied. How ironic that Missouri law prohibits a 19-year-old from witnessing an execution, but allows a 19-year-old to be sentenced to death.

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