Family of man shot and killed by St. Paul police call for transparency in BCA investigation

People stand outside near candles and balloons
Family and friends of Howard Johnson gather for vigil at the site of Johnson’s death in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul on Tuesday. Johnson, 24, was struck by a police vehicle then shot and killed by St. Paul Police on Monday after allegedly displaying a gun during an attempted arrest. Body camera footage of the shooting has yet to be released.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Updated: Dec. 6, 8:36 p.m.

St. Paul police fatally shot 24-year-old Howard Johnson Monday evening in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, after officers responded to reports of a domestic assault.

Authorities said officers were called just after 6 p.m. to the area of Earl Street and Hudson Road, just north of Interstate 94 and east of downtown. A caller reported an assault in progress by an armed man.

A photo sits next to candles
A photo of Howard Johnson rests along the curb where he was killed by St. Paul Police in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul on Tuesday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

According to a police account of what happened, officers set up a perimeter to contain the suspect and then saw Johnson on Hudson Road, with a gun. Officers believed he was attempting to carjack a passerby.

Police spokesperson Sgt. Mike Ernster said an officer in a police vehicle struck the suspect in the street.

“Officers exited their vehicle to find the man standing in front of them, with the handgun still in his hand,” he said. “Officers discharged multiple rounds, striking the man in his torso and leg. Officers immediately rendered aid and called for St. Paul fire paramedics.”

Johnson died at a hospital shortly after the shooting. He was the father of 4-year-old twins, according to his family.

Gain a Better Understanding of Today

MPR News is not just a listener supported source of information, it's a resource where listeners are supported. We take you beyond the headlines to the world we share in Minnesota. Become a sustainer today to fuel MPR News all year long.

A woman looks up at the sky
Monique Johnson, the mother of Howard Johnson, listens to family speak during a vigil at the site of Johnson’s death in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul on Tuesday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Family and friends gathered Tuesday at a vigil.

“My son was my protector, he was loving, he was kind, strong, the life of the party, always cracking jokes,” his mother, Monique Johnson, said. “There are a lot of injustices that happen and people cover up things, they don't tell the whole story or the true story, they tell people what they want to hear, give them bits and pieces of stuff so it's just not fair."

Ernster said the officers involved in the shooting were wearing body cameras that were activated. The state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.

Johnson’s cousin Rea Smith said the family wants to see the body camera footage and any footage from cameras in the area.

"I feel like they owe us transparency, it is something we see constantly in the news, where they're like, 'oh we are going to be transparent, we are going to be transparent,' but then it takes so long to get that information out, it's disheartening,” Smith said.

Three children sit on the ground next to candles
Children, including one of Howard Johnson’s twin sons, a gather at a vigil for Johnson in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul on Tuesday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Newly appointed St. Paul Police Chief Axel Henry supports a transparent BCA investigation, Ernster said in a statement to MPR News on Tuesday.

“The chief and the mayor both agree on the community held principles of a thorough and transparent investigation by the BCA,” he said. “The chief and the mayor are also committed to releasing the video as soon as possible. We will work with the BCA to determine an appropriate time for that to occur.”

Mayor Melvin Carter issued a statement early Tuesday calling the shooting “a painful trauma that will impact the family and friends of the deceased, the men and women of our Saint Paul Police Department, and our entire community for a very long time.”

“There is much more to learn about this incident, and those answers will come. I am working closely with Chief Henry and the BCA to ensure a thorough, timely, and transparent investigation will occur, as our community has agreed to engage in. We are committed to the release of body cam footage as quickly as possible,” Carter wrote.

People gather in a line and look at a speaker
Black Lives Matter Minnesota founder Trahern Crews speaks during a vigil for Howard Johnson at the site of Johnson’s death in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul on Tuesday.
Tim Evans for MPR News