Man charged with murder of Draper officer

Sep 11 2013 - 3:51pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Draper police sergeant killed in the line of duty earlier this month when he stopped to check on a car with a flat tire was shot in the chest by a man inside the car who was high on meth, prosecutors said Wednesday in charging the suspect with murder.

Timothy Walker, 35, was formally charged Wednesday with murder by Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office. That charge means Walker could face lethal injection, district attorney Sim Gill said.

"Death penalty is definitely on the table," said Gill, who will have 60 days from the arraignment to make that decision.

Prosecutors revealed Wednesday for the first time exactly what happened on the early morning of Sept. 1 when Draper police Sgt. Derek Johnson, 32, was killed.

Charging documents show that Johnson had stopped to check out a Volvo that had a flat tire and had run out of gas in Draper, a suburb of Salt Lake City. Walker was standing outside of the car along with his girlfriend, Traci Vaillancourt, 34. As Johnson pulled up in his patrol car, he lowered his passenger side window.

That's when Walker shot Johnson in the chest.

As Johnson accelerated in his patrol car, Walker shot him three more times. Johnson was able to yell, "shots fired" in his police radio before he lost control of his patrol car and smashed into a tree two blocks away, court documents show. Walker then shot himself at the scene and has been hospitalized in serious condition.

Toxicology reports show Walker had methamphetamine in his blood, the documents show.

Prosecutors say Walker also shot Vaillancourt in the back. He was charged Wednesday with attempted homicide for that shooting. Vaillancourt survived, but was formally charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice for giving false accounts about what happened.

Johnson was the first officer killed in the 11-year history of the Draper police department. Draper is a city of 44,000 about 15 miles south of Salt Lake City.

He became a full-time officer in Draper in 2004 and was promoted to sergeant in 2012. He leaves behind a wife and young son. Nearly 5,000 people honored Johnson during a public memorial Friday in which he was remembered as a kind man with a passion for his work and his young family.

Gill said evidence suggests Johnson stopped that morning to assist what he likely perceived as motorists in need of help. He did not know that Walker and Vaillancourt had previously driven over a curb, hit a stop sign and rammed through a fence, Gill said.

 

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