Correctional Officer Ronald E. "RJ" Johnson

Correctional Officer Ronald E. "RJ" Johnson

South Dakota Department of Corrections, South Dakota

End of Watch Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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Ronald E. "RJ" Johnson

Correctional Officer Ronald Johnson was killed by two inmates who were attempting to escape from the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

The inmates attacked Officer Johnson, beat him with a metal pipe, and then wrapped his head in plastic wrap. One of the inmates then put on Officer Johnson's uniform. As the inmate wheeled out a large box with the other inmate inside another officer didn't recognize him as a fellow officer and confronted him.

The officer was attacked but was assisted by other officers who witnessed the attack on surveillance cameras. Both inmates were subdued before being able to escape. One of the inmates who murdered Officer Johnson had been involved in several successful and attempted escapes before.

Officer Johnson was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

Both inmates were charged with first-degree murder, first-degree murder-kidnapping, and assault. One of the inmates pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection on Oct. 15th, 2012. The other inmate involved in the escape was convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and executed in 2018. A third inmate, who provided material used in the murder but did not participate in the escape, was sentenced to life in prison.

Officer Johnson had served with the South Dakota Department of Corrections for 23 years and was murdered on his 63rd birthday. He is survived by his wife, two children, and six grandchildren.


  • Age 63
  • Tour 23 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Assault
  • Weapon Blunt object; Pipe
  • Offender Executed

escape attempt

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Remembering another brother who has fallen. We will never forget the sacrifice you made and the life that was taken away from you. My thoughts, love and respect for your family.

R Kruid Sr Cr Inv.
USMS Ret. - SDSP 1977-78

April 1, 2022

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