Sergeant Edward J. Johnson, Jr.

Sergeant Edward J. Johnson, Jr.

New York City Police Department, New York

End of Watch Friday, January 8, 1960

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Edward J. Johnson, Jr.

Sergeant Johnson was stabbed to death after responding to a report of an emotionally disturbed person armed with a knife in a homeless shelter. When Sergeant Johnson and his driver arrived, they observed the suspect with a 10 inch knife. Sergeant Johnson ordered the suspect to drop the knife, but the suspect lunged at Sergeant Johnson, stabbing him in the chest. Before falling to the ground, Sergeant Johnson fired six shots from his weapon and his driver fired three shots, killing the suspect.

The knife penetrated Sergeant Johnson's heart, and he died at the scene.

Sergeant Johnson had served with the New York City Police Department for 11 years. He was assigned to the 5th Precinct.

Sergeant Johnson was survived by his wife and son.


  • Age 35
  • Tour 11 years
  • Badge 990

Incident Details

  • Cause Stabbed
  • Weapon Edged weapon; Knife
  • Offender Shot and killed

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Detective Ray Taylor, 5th Precinct Detective Squad , was a rookie detective on January 8, 1960. It was a cold night in Chinatown 5th Pct. The patrol sergeant, Sergeant Edward J. Johnson Jr., phoned him about a routine crime report. The sergeant had just been transferred to the 5th Precinct as part of the annual shakeup prior to the Christmas holidays. The Police Commissioner at the time felt that such transfers would prevent corruption. It was not meant to be a reflection on the individual cops transferred, but that was no comfort for the cops that were moved. Detective Taylor was alone in the 5th Squad room when the call came in. The same Sergeant Johnson had been stabbed to death. They needed the detectives to respond to the scene of the homicide of a member of the service. Detective Taylor drove the few blocks to the scene and made a mental note of the sign outside the building at 227 Bowery that read: "A Friend of the Friendless". The domelights of the radio cars flashed against the building and blinded him as the street cops directed him to the entrance to the Mission. He almost gagged as the stench of a hundred derelicts wafted up the staircase. The room was packed with cowering men who had witnessed the homicide. The body of the Sergeant lay on the floor alongside the body of the suspect frozen in what had been a death struggle. The white-tiled walls of the basement room and the glaring lights created an eerie scene for the young detective.

The 5th precinct cops on the scene were in shock as they conferred with Detective Taylor. They spoke in hushed whispers and told him how they and the Sergeant had rushed downstairs into the cellar of the building at 227 Bowery on a report of a man with a knife. Sergeant Johnson and three other cops had just handled a fight next door in the Salvation Army Mission when the Bowery Mission watchman ran up to them for help. The watchman excitedly told the cops that a derelict armed with a large knife was threatening the other men in the basement. There were over 100 men being sheltered there that night due to the extreme cold. It was simply a large brightly-lighted room measuring 100 feet long by 20 feet wide. There were no beds or facilities. The men were charged a token twenty-five cents to spend the night. It was an act of charity to prevent them from the cold and possible frostbite.

Perhaps most of the men in the basement preferred the makeshift shelter to being picked up by the "roundup paddywagon". "Roundup" was the practice of placing the homeless under arrest during extremely cold weather. They were charged with Disorderly Conduct- "Vagrancy". The paddywagon was loaded with as many as it could hold and the men would be arrested and arraigned in Night Court. They would be sentenced to a short jail term during which time they would be deloused and fed. Hopefully, when the weather got milder, they would be back out on the streets. The practice was an old one and was designed to prevent the homeless from freezing to death in the streets. In later years, well-meaning civil libertarians opposed the practice and the Vagrancy Law was ruled unconstitutional by case law in the courts. Many of those in law enforcement felt that was a bad decision and would come back to haunt the City of New York.

When the cops responded into the basement, a berserk homeless man stepped from behind a corner and confronted the Sergeant. He was armed with what looked like a boning knife. Sergeant Johnson ordered the man to drop the knife at gunpoint. The assailant screamed and lunged at the Sergeant. Johnson emptied his revolver into the body of the vagrant as the crowd of derelicts cowered in terror. In the confined area, the other cops fired three shots. Although he was shot multiple times, the forward momentum of the attacker enabled the killer to drive the knife deep into the chest of the Sergeant. The long thin blade of the knife acted like an icepick and penetrated Johnson's heavy woolen winter blouse. The Sergeant died almost instantly. Johnson was an eleven-year veteran of the NYPD.

The Police Commissioner, Stephen P. Kennedy responded to the scene. 5thprcsm2 It was a cold night in Chinatown and young Detective Ray Taylor got a rude introduction to homicide investigations as a detective with the New York City Police Department. It was also a fact that the PC was only a few blocks away from the 5th Precinct. Police Headquarters was located at 240 Centre Street. To be a detective in the 5th Squad was to be working under the direct glare of the NYPD brass. The rookie Detective Ray Taylor would have to learn to work and perform under those conditions.
Cops were shocked by the facts surrounding the death of Sergeant Johnson. Rumors circulated that the killer wasn't stopped by a fusillade of bullets fired by the two cops. Was the .38 Caliber revolver inadequate for police service? As shooting incidents became more frequent in New York, that question would dog the NYPD for many years.

When visiting the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. you will see the name of Sergeant Edward J. Johnson Jr., New York City Police Department on the marble walls of the "pathways of remembrance" at panel 40 E, line 1. His name is enshrined with the names of thousands of law enforcement officers who have shed their blood for this Nation.

P.O. retired
NYPD 5 Pct

January 9, 2019

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