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Highway Patrol Trooper K.J. Johnson Fatally Shot

July 14, 2002

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Highway Patrol Trooper K.J. Johnson Fatally Shot

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Killed in the Line of Duty Sunday at Public Safety Checkpoint

COLUMBIA - The South Carolina Department of Public Safety regretfully announces that Cpl. Kenneth Johnson was fatally shot early Sunday morning while working at a July 4th weekend public safety checkpoint in Berkeley County. This is the second South Carolina trooper to die in the line of duty in less than a month.

"It is unimaginably difficult for us to lose a second trooper less than one month after losing Trooper Rao in neighboring Clarendon County," said DPS Director B. Boykin Rose. "Our thoughts, prayers and support are with Kenneth Johnson's family during this heartbreaking time. This was a senseless act of violence against Cpl. Johnson who was working to make our highways safer during the July 4 holiday."

Johnson, 38, was killed Sunday about 2:15 a.m. along College Park Road between I-26 and U.S. 17A, where several troopers were conducting a public safety checkpoint. Troopers had stopped a pick-up truck driven by a woman. As one of the troopers was writing her an open container citation, Johnson walked around the back of the truck to check on the male in the passenger seat. The man jumped out of the vehicle and began firing on the trooper. Johnson was fatally shot when a bullet struck him just below his bullet-proof vest. He was taken to Trident Regional Medical Center where he died a short time later.

Troopers returned fire on the suspect, Jesse Waylon Sapp, 22, of South Carolina, as he tried to flee. He was struck twice in the leg and once in the abdomen. Sapp was transported to Summerville Regional Medical Center where he underwent surgery and is in stable condition. He has been placed in custody by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office for escape charges stemming from a 2001 incident in which he walked away from a work release detail in Charleston County. He will remain in custody at the hospital until he is stable enough to be moved to the Charleston County Detention Center, which has medical facilities.

The driver, Kathryn Boles, 20, Summerville, was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle and is being held in the Berkeley County Detention Center.

Johnson is survived by his wife and two children. He is a Berkeley County native and was currently residing there with his family. He was hired by the Highway Patrol in 1990, assigned to Hampton County. He transferred to Berkeley County in 1991 where he eventually became corporal, a road supervisor position, in October 2000. Johnson was a member of the United States Army from 1982 to 1989. He is a graduate of Berkeley High School.

Johnson is the first trooper to be shot in the line of duty since Eric Nicholson was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Greenville County in 2000. Trooper Michael Rao was the most recent trooper to die in the line of duty. He was struck by a vehicle while helping a stranded motorist on June 10, 2002, and died two days later.

The State Law Enforcement Division, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office are investigating the shooting.

Memorial service plans have not been finalized yet, but will be sent by press release and posted to the DPS web site (www.scdps.org). Condolences for Johnson's family may be sent to the South Carolina Highway Patrol District Six Office, ATTN: Trooper Johnson Condolences, 8740 North Park Blvd., Otranto Building, North Charleston, 29406.

Condolences may be sent to:
South Carolina Highway Patrol
District Six Office
ATTN: Trooper Johnson Condolences
8740 North Park Blvd., Otranto Building
North Charleston, SC 29406

A memorial fund for Cpl. K.J. Johnson's family has been set up.
Contributions may be made at any BB&T bank office in South Carolina.

K. J. Johnson

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