The former Farmers Branch police officer charged with murder in the 2016 shooting death of a teenager was in court on Thursday as attorneys prepare for his trial next month.
Investigators say Ken Johnson chased and shot two teenagers because he suspected them of breaking into his car. Along with murder, Johnson is also charged with aggravated assault. Jose Cruz died and his friend Edgar Rodriguez survived.
The purpose of the pretrial hearing was to give the court an opportunity to see, hear and evaluate the science the state plans to use in making its murder case against Johnson.
The 37-year-old former officer is free on a $300,000 bond. He was in court Thursday for the entire pre-trial hearing as lawyers questioned two expert witnesses for the state about vehicle computers and sensors.
Johnson is charged with the murder of 16-year-old Jose Cruz and the aggravated assault on another teenager in the car at the time.
In March of 2016, police say Johnson was off-duty when he saw his vehicle being burglarized in his apartment complex parking lot and he gave chase in his own SUV.
Investigators say Johnson rear-ended Cruz's red Challenger, disabling it, and opened fire on Cruz and his friend inside the car. Cruz was killed at the scene.
More than a dozen members of Cruz and his family were in the courtroom and saw Johnson for the first time in person. They did not like his demeanor.
"He acted as if nothing has happened. He looked very calm, very relaxed,” said Ana Henriquez, Jose’s mother. “And us here suffering, and every day we suffer. Every day, we're paying. Every day, we hurt. Every day, I cry."
Attorneys for Johnson are opposed to allowing expert testimony about the vehicle computers, saying the science is not reliable. They also maintain Johnson's actions on that night unfolded because he feared for his life. They plan to prove Johnson was a victim of a crime and that the actions he took were justified.
It’s unclear how the scientific automotive evidence plays into the murder case, but the judge will make his ruling on October 6.
The murder trial is set for October 18.