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A police officer was convicted of murder for shooting teens trying to steal his car

A photo taken by a witness shows former Farmers Branch police Officer Ken Johnson firing on the vehicle of two teenagers who tried to steal his car. The officer was convicted of murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon Tuesday. (Image source: CBS This Morning video screenshot)

A Texas police officer was convicted of murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon Tuesday for shooting two teenagers who tried to steal his personal vehicle in March 2016. The officer now faces life in prison, The Dallas Morning News reported.

What happened?

The two teenagers, Jose Cruz and Edgar Rodriguez, tried to break into the Chevrolet Tahoe of former Farmers Branch police officer Ken Johnson.

Johnson was off-duty and in plainclothes at the time of the incident. When he caught them in the attempted theft, they retreated to their own vehicle and fled.

Johnson pursued.

Johnson rammed the teens’ car off the road and jumped out of his vehicle (while it was rolling into oncoming traffic) and fired his weapon 16 times into the car.

Cruz, who was 16, died at the scene after being shot in the head. Rodriguez, also 16, survived wounds to his head and hand, which resulted in the loss of a finger.

What were the factors in the case?

The teenagers were unarmed at the time, although the defense argued that Johnson was acting out of self-defense because he believed Cruz had a weapon.

Investigators portrayed Johnson as acting in rage, saying he shot at the car, then opened the driver’s side door and began firing his weapon inside.

Johnson was in violation of department policies by chasing the teens and ramming them with his personal vehicle, his chief said. Johnson did not have his badge or phone with him when he pursued the teens, only his gun.

“Ken Johnson was in a rage,” said prosecutor Jason Hermus. “And how do we know that? Because he decides only to grab his gun. He commits himself to the outcome.”

Johnson's sentencing hearing will begin Jan. 8.

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