A Mid-South community continues to grieve the loss of a police officer, and young father, who was shot and killed off duty Saturday.
Authorities said 25-year-old Forrest City police officer Oliver Johnson Jr. wasn’t the intended target in a shootout Saturday at his West Memphis, Arkansas, apartment complex. Authorities said gunfire between two groups broke out and a stray bullet hit Johnson. He leaves behind two daughters.
The community placed a memorial wreath outside the Forrest City Police Department to honor the officer, who was remembered by his superiors as dedicated to this community and always ready to step up at any hour of the day.
Flags are flying at half-staff outside the Forrest City Police Department to honor Officer Johnson.
“We’re hurting,” said Forrest City Police Lt. Eric Varner. “It’s hard, 35-man department, we’re all attached.”
Lt. Varner worked with Officer Johnson on patrol and saw something special early on, when Johnson took off his vest and played basketball with some youngsters.
“You can’t teach that to an officer, it’s either in them or it’s not. Get a new officer, a lot of time they think it’s just ride around, write tickets, enforce the law, there’s a lot more to do it, interacting with the community, helping solve crimes and he was really good at that,” said Lt. Varner.
Lt. Varner said Johnson wanted to be an officer since high school and was excited to fulfill a dream after getting an offer last week to join the West Memphis Police Department.
“He always talked about going back to West Memphis. That’s where his heart was at, that’s where he grew up,” said Lt. Varner.
That dream will never be realized after authorities said a fight between two groups at a West Memphis apartment complex Saturday led to gunfire and a stray bullet killed Officer Johnson inside his apartment.
“My opinion, that makes it worse, anytime you put on a badge, they expect anything can happen during the day, but you don’t really expect it whenever you are at home, trying to spend time with your family,” said Lt. Varner. “I don’t think you’ll find anyone in public who didn’t like him… Great guy, really community oriented, anytime there was something going on in the community he was really involved.”
West Memphis police yet to make any arrests in this case.
The Forrest City Police Department is now working to support Officer Johnson’s family. They’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses since his insurance money will be less since he died off duty.
“They help protect us. This is the least I can do,” said Forrest City resident Linda Watson, as she gave $10 to a growing fund for Officer Johnson. “I didn’t have a whole lot to give but what I had to give today, I gave freely, and if I get some more, I’m going to bring some more.”
As in person and online donations continue to pour in, Lt. Varner is humbled by the more than $5,000 raised for Officer Johnson’s family in just two days.
“Shows the man he was, the kind of integrity that he had for the public to stand behind him like that,” said Varner.
“My heart goes out to him. I don’t have to know him, he’s a human being, plus he’s a fellow officer,” said Watson.