Lawyer: 'Tonight ... Missouri Killed Kevin Because He Is Black'

Kevin Johnson died by lethal injection Tuesday night
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 30, 2022 12:02 AM CST
Updated Nov 30, 2022 5:01 AM CST
Man Who Killed Cop He Blamed for Brother's Death Executed
This photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows Kevin Johnson.   (Missouri Department of Corrections via AP)

A Missouri man convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis area police officer he blamed in the death of his younger brother was executed Tuesday night, the AP reports. Kevin Johnson, 37, died after an injection of pentobarbital at the state prison in Bonne Terre. It was the state’s second execution this year and the 17th nationally. Johnson’s attorneys didn’t deny that he killed Officer William McEntee in 2005, but contended he was sentenced to death in part because he is Black. But courts, including the US Supreme Court, and Republican Gov. Mike Parson declined to stop the execution. Johnson declined to make a final statement, but attorney Shawn Nolan released a statement: "Tonight the state of Missouri killed Kevin Johnson, an amazing father to his daughter Khorry, and a completely rehabilitated man. Make no mistake about it, Missouri capitally prosecuted, sentenced to death, and killed Kevin because he is Black. ... Shame on all of them."

In a first for modern executions in Missouri, Johnson was not in the execution room alone. His spiritual adviser, the Rev. Darryl Gray, sat at his side. The men spoke softly until the drug was administered. Gray read from the Bible as Johnson shut his eyes. Within seconds, all movement ceased. Gray, a leading St. Louis racial injustice activist, continued reading from the Bible or praying while patting Johnson’s shoulder. “We read scripture and had a word of prayer,” Gray said. “He apologized again. He apologized to the victim’s family. He apologized to his family. He said he was looking forward to seeing his baby brother. And he said he was ready.” Johnson’s 19-year-old daughter had sought to witness the execution, but a state law prohibits anyone under 21 from observing the process. She was able to meet with her father hours before the execution.

McEntee, 43, was a 20-year veteran of the police department in Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb. A husband and father of three, he was among the officers sent to Johnson’s home on July 5, 2005, to serve a warrant for his arrest. Johnson, then 19, was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend, and police believed he had violated probation. Johnson saw officers arrive and awoke his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran to a house next door. Once there, the boy, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and began having a seizure. Johnson testified at trial that McEntee kept his mother from entering the house to aid his brother, who died a short time later at a hospital. That evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to check on unrelated reports of fireworks being shot off and Johnson found and killed him.

(More Missouri stories.)

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