A memorial service for Joseph Johnson, the Nyssa police reserve corporal murdered on duty, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, April 21, at Nyssa High School.
An overflow crowd is expected and organizers are preparing additional venues to watch the ceremony.
A law enforcement procession will wind through Ontario and end at the high school but route details have yet to be announced. Organizers are urging people to line the route to show support for Johnson’s family, which will be in the procession.
As friends and colleagues share memories, a portrait is emerging of a man dedicated to his community, willing to help out on many fronts.
Johnson, 43, worked as a behavioral specialist at Snake River Correctional Institution, served as a reserve police in Nyssa for five years, worked as a therapist and served as a volunteer firefighter.
He died Saturday, April 15, while on patrol in Nyssa. He responded to a disturbance at a home well-known to police for domestic violence calls. Johnson was shot to death after pulling up behind a man reported to be on a rampage who had led the officer on a short pursuit.
The grief of law enforcement was evident during a news conference in Ontario on Tuesday, April 18. They did not use the defendant’s name, instead referring to Rene Castro, 36, only as “the suspect.” He is in jail, charged with aggravated murder and four other felonies.
VIDEO: Law enforcement news conference
Nyssa Police Chief Don Ballou said it would take a long time for his team to recover from Johnson’s death.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to be fully recovered,” said Ballou, who last December had presented Johnson his agency’s Outstanding Performance Award.
The chief thanked police agencies for their swift response to the murder and the subsequent tracking and arrest. He also said his team appreciated the community’s response.
“I’m overly humbled to see the support we have,” Ballou said.
Malheur County District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe shared that the suspect in Johnson’s killing, Rene Castro, 36, of Nyssa, was in custody and had been charged with aggravated murder and four other felonies and was in custody.
He said police worked “tirelessly” to find the suspect.
“It really has been a great team effort to enact swift justice,” said Malheur County Sheriff Travis Johnson.
Mike Iwai, Ontario police chief, said the murder and investigation had taken a toll on officers and asked for continued public support for police.
“They will definitely need it,” Iwai said. “Now is not a time for us to rest.”
Earlier in the day, a procession of about 50 police, fire and medic rigs formed on Stanton Boulevard, falling into line to escort Johnson’s body the final miles back to Ontario, to the Haren-Wood Funeral Chapel on Southwest Fourth Avenue.
There, law enforcement officials saluted as the flag-draped coffin was moved into the chapel.
David Peterson, a Bend police officer and board member of the Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, said the nonprofit group is covering expenses for the memorial service.
“Nyssa police and the Johnson family will not pay for any of these services,” Peterson said.
He said the foundation is collecting donations to support Johnson’s family. Donations can be made online, by check or at any U.S. Bank branch. He said the foundation should be considered the “official” conduit for contributions for the family.
Reporters Pat Caldwell and Steven Mitchell contributed reporting.
Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected].
NOTE: This story is being provided without charge as a community service of the Enterprise.
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