Thomas E. Johnson
Metro Nashville Police Department, Tennessee
End of Watch: Tuesday, January 16, 1968
Bio & Incident Details
Tour: 10 years
Badge # Not available
Weapon: Rifle; .30-.30
Offender: Sentenced to 99 years
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Officer Thomas Johnson and Officer Charles Thomasson were shot and killed after Officer Johnson stopped a vehicle at 15th Avenue and Herman Street that was wanted in connection with passing false money orders. As Officer Johnson exited his patrol car the five occupants of the vehicle opened fire with a 30-30 rifle and other guns, striking him in the chest.
As Officer Thomasson arrived on the scene to backup Officer Johnson he was shot seven times. Officer Thomasson succumbed to his wounds two months later. The ensuing investigation revealed that the five suspects were connected to the radical Black Panther group.
Within days three suspects were apprehended in Cincinnati, Ohio, and charged with murder. All three were convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 99 years on December 16, 1968. A fourth suspect was apprehended in 1971 and was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. On May 12, 1974, the first three suspects escaped from the Tennessee Penitentiary. One was captured in Baltimore, Maryland, April 1, 1986. He hanged himself in his cell before officials could question him. A second escapee was captured in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 17, 1986, when he tried to apply for a drivers license. The third escapee remains at large.
The fifth and final suspect was apprehended June 18, 1986, at the Jacksonville home of the second captured escapee. He had been on the FBI's 10 most wanted list longer than any other fugitive.
Officer Johnson had served with the agency for 10 years and had previously served with the United States Army. He was survived by his four children and is buried at Nashville National Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Black Panthers is a racist, radical group that professed the murders of law enforcement officers. Members and former members of the group were responsible for the murders of at least 15 law enforcement officers and the wounding of dozens more across the nation.