An 18-year-old who was shot and killed by police Wednesday night had said he was “depressed” in recent months because he was repeatedly getting into trouble with the law, according to a long-time friend.
Gabby Mayo said David William Johnson “started going downhill” about a year ago when he got involved with drugs.
“He got arrested a bunch of times,” said Mayo, 17, who attended Wake Forest High with Johnson.
Two Wake Forest police officers shot Johnson about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in a shopping center parking lot along Grandmark Street near The Factory at 1839 South Main Street after a chase.
Officers David Cohen and Darryl Ragland shot Johnson after he emerged from his car, a black, 2008 Honda Accord. The officers told investigators that Johnson got out of the car with a handgun in his hand and that he failed to comply with several commands to drop it, said Wake Forest spokesman Bill Crabtree.
Wake Forest police did not say if the teen pointed the gun at them. But Cohen and Ragland were aware that Johnson had fired the gun near his home in northern Wake County before they confronted him, according to a recording of a police call made public Thursday.
Emergency workers transported Johnson, of 2545 Spring Oaks Way in Raleigh, to WakeMed where he later died, Crabtree said. Johnson was a senior at Wake Forest High School before he withdrew in January, said Wake County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten.
Mayo, whose family moved to Greenville earlier this year, said she was troubled by the shooting but not surprised by it, and added that “it was bound to happen.”
“He kept getting arrested, and it made him really depressed,” Mayo said. “He felt really lonely. He was in a bad place in his head, and I honestly think he was ready to die.”
Johnson had a handful of pending court dates. He was scheduled to appear in a Wake County courtroom on May 27 after he was charged March 2 with possession of a stolen firearm and consumption of alcohol by an underage person, state records show.
Johnson was also supposed to appear in a courtroom in Pender County on April 21, 2016, to answer charges of possession of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanor possession of marijuana and the provisional revocation of his driver’s license, state records show.
Johnson was in a Wake County courtroom on January 7, where he was found guilty of resisting a public officer and underage drinking. He was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to perform 30 hours of community service. A felony charge of second-degree burglary filed against Johnson was dismissed, state records show.
A tip from Raleigh police
About 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Raleigh police issued a regionwide alert asking law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for a man in a black Honda Accord who had a stolen firearm that he had fired in the air, according to a copy of a police recording made public Thursday.
A short time later, a Raleigh police officer called the Wake Forest Police Department to inform them that Johnson was suspected of stealing a firearm from a home on Old Keystone Road and might be headed to a home in the 300 block of Stone Monument Drive off South Main Street.
The officer gave the dispatcher the name of a student who lived at the home. Mayo said a school friend who was a close friend of Johnson lived at the home that was also a popular hangout among high school students.
“David was at her house all the time,” Mayo said. “It’s a big school kids hangout.”
When officers Cohen and Ragland arrived at the home, they encountered Johnson, who immediately drove off, Crabtree said.
The officers followed Johnson’s Accord for less than a mile when he wrecked on Grandmark Street. Cohen and Ragland said that Johnson got out the car “armed with a handgun in plain view,” Crabtree said. The two officers fired, hitting Johnson several times.
Cohen and Ragland have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard in shooting incidents involving police. The State Bureau of Investigation and the Wake Forest Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit will investigate the shooting.
Crabtree said Cohen has been a law enforcement officer for three years and joined the Wake Forest department in March. Ragland has been a law enforcement officer for five years and joined the Wake Forest department in February 2014.