Man on trial for shooting officer who was luckily saved by bulletproof vest

PoliceOne Staff Report
(CLAIRTON, Pa.) -- A disgruntled former city employee on trial for shooting an officer and other charges was seeking retribution for a previous run-in with the officer and told him before shooting that "Today is your day to be judged," according to court testimony.

Officer John Dunlap, 27, whose life was saved by his bulletproof vest, testified yesterday that Benjamin Johnson,38, had shot him seven times because he pointed his gun at the man while serving a warrant on him in May of this year.

"I asked him why he shot me," Dunlap said in court according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "He said it was because I dropped the hammer on him."

Johnson, who has had other less-violent confrontations with other city employees, faces charges of attempted homicide, reckless endangerment, terroristic threats and firearms violations.

On Oct. 19 Johnson rode by Dunlap, who was talking to another officer outside his police car, and said something that sounded like "Killer Dunlap or kill Dunlap," the officer testified.

Taking the comments as a threat, Dunlap circled the block with the intent to cite Johnson for disorderly conduct.

When the officer got out of the car to confront Johnson, he started shooting, the Post-Gazette reported.

Dunlap was hit in the stomach four times and once in the hand, which prohibited him from pulling his gun. Johnson then chased Dunlap into an alley where a struggle ensued. Eventually the officer, with the help of two passersby, was able to subdue the gunman, according to press reports.

The Rev. LeRoy Harris, pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church, testified on Johnson's behalf, saying, "We know there was no way he could have done something like this without being provoked."

But according to other testimony including that of Clairton Mayor Dominic Serapiglia, Johnson has threatened several city employees and was fired from a job as a street worker for pulling a gun and threatening to kill a coworker.

Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Edward Borkowski has tried to establish Johnson's disenchantment with the city government as a motive for the shooting and the threats.

In the courtroom Dunlap walked with a slight gimp and his right hand was bandaged. The newspaper reported that Dunlap has had surgery on the hand and may need more.

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