Deliberations begin in ex-Farmers Branch officer's murder trial

A Dallas County jury is deciding whether a former Farmers Branch police officer is guilty murder.

Ken Johnson is on trial for killing 16-year-old Jose Cruz in March 2016.

The former officer says he caught Cruz and his friend stealing the third seat from his SUV. Prosecutors say he followed them, bumping their car and then opened fire when they stopped, killing Cruz and injuring his friend.

The jury began deliberating Monday afternoon. Cruz's family huddled together in the lobby awaiting word on a verdict.

Lieutenant Timothy Simmons, a crash reconstruction specialist with the Texas Department of Public Safety, was the last of some 20 witnesses to take the stand for the prosecution over five-and-a-half days of testimony.

Simmons reviewed surveillance videos and crash scene data form the deadly shooting on March 13, 2016. He concluded the off-duty officer had no justification to ram Cruz’s Dodge Challenger moments after the 16-year-old and his friend, Edgar Rodriguez, stole third-row seats from Johnson's personal SUV.

“Unless it’s a life or death situation, there’s only three numbers you need to worry about — and that’s 911,” Simmons said. “Call them. Get someone in a marked unit out there, and let them handle it.”

After the state rested, the defense opted not to call any witnesses. Instead, both sides presented closing arguments to the jury, beginning with the state.

“Was he justified in shooting that kid in the head and killing him in the car after he repeatedly rammed it and ran it off of the road in broad daylight, putting countless of other individuals in our community at risk? That's the question before you,” said prosecutor Gary McDonald.

The defense maintains Johnson, who chose not to take the stand in his own defense, was in fear for his life when he opened fire on Cruz and Rodriguez. He believed Cruz was reaching for a weapon. Johnson fired all 16 bullets in his gun.

“He doesn't have to see the gun,” said defense attorney Robert Rogers. “He doesn't have to have a bullet flying towards him, and it doesn't have to be a gun. “His belief has to be reasonable that Jose Cruz is going for a weapon.”

The prosecution believes testimony from several eyewitnesses, experts and crash data prove without a reasonable doubt that Johnson is guilty of murder.

“This is exactly about Jose Cruz not being home for Christmas,” said Dallas County Asst. DA Jason Hurmes. “And I hope you folks don't lose sight of that fact.”

Twice during the state's closing, the defense called for a mistrial, which the judge denied. The jury finished deliberating for the day around 4: 30 p.m. They will resume Tuesday morning.

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