Reporting Levon Putney
NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – As loudspeakers broadcast a sermon onto a Newark sidewalk where hundreds of police officers stood at attention, a young girl’s wailing could be heard from inside the church: “I want my daddy back.”
Newark Police Officer William Johnson was being remembered Thursday as a man devoted to his native city and his two daughters a week after he was killed in a drive-by shooting. He was off duty and standing at the counter of a fast-food restaurant in Newark waiting for an order to go on his way to a second job as a security guard.
Detective Russell K. Thomas was a friend of Johnson’s who graduated in the same 1995 class of 200 officers, the largest police class in Newark’s history. He said Johnson was dedicated to remaining in the city he loved and working to improve it. His death rattled the department, Thomas said, partly because of the senseless manner in which he was gunned down, with bullets that authorities believe were meant for someone else.
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“We just wouldn’t expect this, not like this,” Thomas said of Johnson’s death. “We already know what we signed up for to become police officers - it’s a very tough job - but not on your off time. It shows that you’re never off duty.”
Authorities have charged 19-year-old Rasul McNeill-Thomas with murder and aggravated assault. Police have been searching for a second suspect.
Two others were shot and wounded in the incident.
The slain officer grew up in Newark and worked in the police department’s video surveillance unit. He was a 16-year veteran of the force.
Johnson was remembered as a straight-talking, methodical, dedicated cop who was devoted to his children and spoke of attending their school performances with pride.
Besides Johnson, two other people were struck in the drive-by shooting. A 21-year-old man was hospitalized with a wound to the stomach, and a 19-year-old at the restaurant with her toddler was struck in the shoulder, treated and released. Her child was not wounded.
The 45-year-old, who was not married, is survived by his two daughters.
Johnson’s funeral took place in Newark, and he was being buried in Union.
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