Friends, Colleagues Remember Charleston Officer Cassie Johnson
Hundreds from law enforcement agencies throughout the state gathered at the Charleston Coliseum and Civic Center Tuesday afternoon, including officers for the Charleston Police Department.
They wore black cloth face masks with a blue symbol on the right cheek — No. 146, the unit number for 28-year-old police officer Cassie Johnson, who died Thursday, Dec. 3.
For the last week, police officials and local news outlets have covered key moments in the situation that lead to Johnson’s death, including the gunshot that killed her, Johnson’s hospitalization and her family’s decision to save and harvest their daughter’s organs.
But on Tuesday during Johnson’s funeral, her colleagues and city leaders focused their attention to honoring who Johnson was — a young West Virginia native with a soft spot for pets and a passion for protecting her hometown.
“Cassie was the epitome of what a police officer should be,” said friend and colleague, Lt. Autumn Davis. “Someone with a compassionate heart for the most vulnerable, [someone with] a selfless desire to come to the aid of others, and someone with the courage in the face of danger.”
Johnson graduated from the West Virginia State Police Academy in May 2019, according to Charleston Police Chief James “Tyke” Hunt. She was assigned to the Charleston Police Department shortly afterward. Prior to that, the Capital High alumna worked as a humane officer, finding stray pets and bringing them to the local humane association.
Her colleagues, including Hunt, spoke highly of Johnson’s determination to join their force.
“I believe Patrolman Cassie Johnson would tell us all to never give up, and to continue on with your protection of others,” Hunt said. “Law enforcement is a noble profession. It is also a profession that is plagued with misunderstanding from some, who are on the outside looking in.”
Davis recalled first meeting Johnson in 2017, when Johnson was first testing to join the department. Even though Johnson didn’t pass on her first attempt, Davis said she encouraged Johnson to keep trying and to stay engaged with the city’s public safety community.
In all of Johnson’s work with local law enforcement, Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin told funeral attendees — including Johnson’s mother and her siblings — that Johnson helped Charleston become a “more vibrant and a safer place.” According to Davis, Johnson was working toward becoming a canine officer.
“Which would have combined her love for dogs and police work,” Davis said. “A perfect fit. I have no doubt that her partner would have been very spoiled.”
As an organ donor, Johnson continues to have a positive impact on her community, according to members from the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, who spoke at Johnson’s funeral and described some of the adults who have received Johnson’s heart, lungs, kidney and tissue.
Johnson’s funeral ended with a procession from the convention center to the Floral Hills Memorial Gardens in Sissonville.
Johnson died on life support on Thursday, Dec. 3, two days after responding to a parking parking complaint along Garrison Avenue, where police say 38-year-old Joshua Phillips shot her.
Phillips was hospitalized at Charleston Area Medical Center the same day as Johnson, due to gun injuries police believe he sustained from Johnson.
Phillips was out of jail on bond after he was charged for driving on a revoked license in January, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Investigators with the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department told the paper that Phillips parked his car in front of a driveway that wasn’t his own, which set off the parking complaint that Johnson was responding to.
Goodwin told MetroNews on Friday that the city will charge Phillips with first-degree murder.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.