By PoliceOne Staff
UNION, N.J. — The off-duty Newark (N.J.) police officer who was slain in a drive-by shooting one week ago was laid to rest today at Hollywood Cemetery in nearby Union, following a ceremony Wednesday night at New Hope Baptist Church. According to a post on SouthWardPatch.com — a web service specializing in local news and events — Officer William C. Johnson Jr. was “a man who loved to eat, told corny jokes, enjoyed a good cookout, and cared deeply about his two daughters.”
“As loudspeakers broadcast a sermon onto a Newark sidewalk where hundreds of police officers stood at attention,” said one report from the Associated Press, “a young girl’s wailing could be heard from inside the church: ‘I want my daddy back’.”
Officer Johnson — a 16-year veteran of the Newark Police Department — was waiting for a slice of pizza at the counter of a fast-food restaurant when he was shot to death by at least one gunman, one of whom has been identified as 19-year-old Rasul McNeill-Thomas.
McNeill-Thomas is being charged with first-degree murder and is also charged with two counts of aggravated assault, carjacking, conspiracy and weapons offenses. His bail has been set at $1.5 million.
According to a report on NJ.com, 37 homicides have occurred in Newark in 2011. Even as officers were preparing to attend yesterday’s wake for Officer Johnson, Newark police “yesterday rolled out a wide-ranging plan to flood city streets with cops and recruit the community as crime-prevention partners, amid five recent killings and the looming memory of last summer’s staggering body count.”
Like many agencies across the country, Newark PD is struggling to keep its ranks high enough to deploy the needed number of officers to high-crime areas — Newark last year laid off 163 police officers — and this redeployment program seeks to enlist the assistance of civilians to join this 'Safe City Task Force'.
The effort, announced by acting Police Director Samuel DeMaio and Mayor Cory Booker, will also “recruit churches, recreational centers, camps, and local nonprofit groups to provide alternatives to another brutal city summer,” said NJ.com.