The trial for a former police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a teenage burglary suspect is now underway.
Former officer Ken Johnson opened fire on two teens in March 2016 and killed 16-year-old Jose Cruz.
Moments before the start of the murder trial on Monday, Cruz’s family held a prayer circle in the hallway. The state and defense laid out their case to the jury of six men and six women during opening statements.
Johnson was off duty and out of uniform when he claims two teens were burglarizing his vehicle in his apartment. Cruz and Edgar Rodriguez were both 16 at the time.
Johnson chased the two in his personal vehicle and surveillance video shows Johnson's SUV hitting the back of Cruz's Dodge Challenger, causing it to spin out of control. He then opened fire on both teens, killing Cruz and injuring Rodriguez.
“He killed somebody. Shot every bullet he could because he might have a gun,” said prosecutor Jason Hurmes. “He never saw a gun. There was never a gun seen.”
“The state's case is built on the myth that Ken Johnson is some homicidal maniac and had nothing better to do than put out a gun and confront Edgar Rodriguez and Jose Cruz,” said defense attorney Robert Roger.
Johnson watched on Monday as Rodriguez took the stand for the prosecution. The 16-year-old admitted he and Cruz stole the third-row seats out of Johnson's SUV that was parked at an apartment complex. Rodriguez recalled the chase when Johnson rammed Cruz's red Dodge Challenger twice with his SUV Video played in court shows the impact coming to rest along the sidewalk near a gas station at Spring Valley Road.
“I asked him if he was ready. He said for what?” recalled Rodriguez. “I said we're going to jail because that’s what I thought.”
Rodriguez testified he heard Cruz yell his name twice. Rodriguez looked out the window and saw Johnson, who was off duty and not in uniform, pointing a gun at them.
“He just started shooting without saying anything before. He didn’t tell us to get out of the car, nothing,” Rodriguez said. “As soon as I looked at him, he started shooting. I start covering myself, yelling, crying. I wasn’t expecting him to start shooting.”
Cruz was shot dead. Rodriquez says he covered his head with his hands while holding his cell phone. A picture showed a bullet lodged in the phone. Rodriquez, who also lost a finger, believes the cell phone saved his life.
Addison Police Detective David McDonald spent much of the afternoon detailing what he found at the scene in March of 2016. He showed the jury photographs of Cruz slumped behind the wheel with his hands empty and bullet wounds in the back of the head and the torso.
In all investigators determined Johnson fired 16 shots at the teens.
Community activist Carlos Quintanilla says Cruz's family intends to be there for the entire trial.
“The family's hope is once the jury hears all of the evidence, sees the video and the circumstances of that day that they will come to the right decision and convict Ken Johnson,” Quintanilla said.
Johnson was fired from the Farmers Branch Police Department for his actions. The FBPD chief said Johnson violated department policy when he chased the teens in his personal vehicle and rammed their car.
Johnson is charged with murder for killing Cruz and aggravated assault for shooting Rodriguez, who survived.
Testimony is set to resume on Tuesday. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.