Dad CORNELIUS JOHNSON was wanted for raping a 15-year-old female relative. When police came to his door, he opened fire. He was killed by police, but put his own children at risk as well.
Full report: Mobile police officers trade gunfire with rape suspect, killing him
By Jillian Kramer
October 22, 2009, 8:00AM
MOBILE, Ala. -- Two Mobile police officers traded gunfire with a rape suspect Tuesday night, fatally shooting the 39-year-old man in his Josephine Allen apartment home, authorities said.
Cornelius Johnson refused to speak to officers who knocked on his Herman Drive door sometime after 10:30 p.m. to question him in the rape of a 15-year-old female relative, interim police Chief Lester Hargrove said.
Instead, a 17-year-old boy answered the front door, then tried to slam it shut when Johnson yelled from upstairs to close the door.
An officer shoved his foot forward and held the door open, Hargrove said, as Johnson emerged at the top of a staircase, his hand resting on a Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun at his hip.
The officers shouted for the man to drop the weapon, but he would not, according to the police account.
Instead, Johnson raised the gun and opened fire, wounding one of the officers after bullet fragments ricocheted and struck him in the leg.
As the officers retreated from the door and the teenager fled, each officer fired a single shot at Johnson, Hargrove said.
"When officers are in danger," Hargrove said, "they don't take any chances."
Tuesday's officer-involved shooting was the fourth this year, police reported. Three of those shootings were fatal.
After each firing a shot Tuesday, the officers called for the department's tactical team, which surrounded the northside Mobile residence.
The team made repeated calls for Johnson, but the man and father of five never responded, Hargrove said.
At 1 a.m., the team knocked down the door and found Johnson dead.
Investigators were awaiting autopsy results to determine whether Johnson was hit once or twice on his upper body.
An 8-year-old boy, identified as Johnson's son, was found unharmed inside one of the bedrooms.
Both officers were placed on paid administrative leave until an internal investigation into the shooting is complete, Hargrove said. Neither of their names were released Wednesday.
Hargrove said police found out about the alleged rape Tuesday night when Child Protective Services called officers to the University of South Alabama Medical Center, where the girl had reported the abuse.
The girl told police that a relative had raped her numerous times over a five-year period.
"She had enough," Hargrove said, "and she was not going to take it anymore."
Both the girl and her mother identified Johnson as her rapist, Hargrove said, prompting police to make the late night call at his house.
Friends gathered at Johnson's home Wednesday afternoon defended him.
"I've never known him to be anything but a person who just made everyone feel comfortable," said Jennifer Norwood, a family friend. "He would do anything to make you feel better. I'm not sure how it could have happened the way police say."
James Priester, who said he worked with Johnson frequently on odds-and-ends jobs, fixing up homes and cars, said Johnson was "a really good dude" who "when he wasn't fixing up a house or a car, he was cutting hair."