Slain San Jose officer remembered as shooting investigation continues

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Thursday, March 26, 2015
Officer Michael Johnson was shot and killed in San Jose, Calif. on March 24, 2015.
Officer Michael Johnson was shot and killed in San Jose, Calif. on March 24, 2015.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Condolences are pouring in from government officials, average citizens, and law enforcement officers from agencies across the state after a San Jose police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, flags were flown at half-staff at the state capital, at the police department, and at San Jose City Hall. Officer Michael Johnson, a San Jose native, was the first to lose his life in the line of duty for the department since 2001.

PHOTOS: San Jose police escort body of fallen officer

Authorities say 57-year-old Scott Dunham fatally shot the 38-year-old veteran officer who was responding to a call of a man threatening to commit suicide. The shooting prompted an hours-long manhunt and forced nearby apartments to be evacuated. San Jose police spokesman Albert Morales says search ended when Dunham was found dead early Wednesday on his apartment balcony.

Police had no communication with the suspect between the time Johnson was shot about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday and when Dunham was found dead more than eight hours later, at 3:20 a.m. Wednesday. It was unclear if he killed himself or died when officers returned fire.

"It's unfortunate that this person had the nerve, the audacity, to shoot at our officers that were responding to a call for service, for assistance," Police Chief Larry Esquivel said.

Those who live at the apartment complex and knew Dunham are still trying to make sense of it all.

"It kind of makes you think no one's really safe," said neighbor Alexei Gurtowski. "That's your apartment, there's someone with a gun, it just makes you wonder what really goes down."

They're shocked that one of their neighbors could do something so horrific.

VIDEO: Neighbors of man accused of killing SJ cop speak out

"What could he have possibly been going through that would make him do something so abrupt?" asked former neighbor Vaneta Lewis. "How do you go from being a nice person to a killer?"

After digging into Dunham's past, the ABC7 News I-Team discovered that he was booked for felony domestic violence in 1996. His wife reported he had choked and hit her in their home. She told officers that Dunham had an alcohol problem and that he often got angry and violent when he drank. The three felony counts were later reduced to misdemeanors.

That warning about Dunham's drinking issue sounds prophetic, in light of what ABC7 News learned from listening to police radio communications leading up to Tuesday night's shooting.

Dispatchers warned officers that Dunham had a history of mental illness and they believed he had two handguns inside the residence.

VIDEO: Dispatch audio paints intense picture before SJ officer killed

The family of the fallen officer has asked for privacy as they deal with unimaginable grief. In the meantime, friends and colleagues of Johnson are remembering him as a man who had the perfect skills to be a police officer and touched many lives in his 14 years working patrol.

Frank Santiago was a friend of the fallen officer, and worried when he heard about the shooting.

"I texted him," said Santiago. "I said, 'hey you okay bro?' And I never got a response. And I was hoping, you know, I would see something this morning. But, you know, I never got that text."

Santiago and Johnson were black belts in judo and taught both children and adults at the Pacific Judo & Ju Jitsu Academy in South San Jose. Johnson started training in martial arts at age 15.

VIDEO: Friends, colleagues remember slain San Jose officer

His one-time supervisor at the San Jose Police Department, San Jose Police Officer Association President Sgt. Paul Kelly, said Johnson was an ideal officer.

"He was an even keel, respectful, hard-working officer," he said. "It was easy for people on the street to connect to him and be able to open up and talk to him because he was an easy guy to talk to."

On Wednesday evening, police escorted the fallen officer's body from the medical examiner's office to a funeral home in Los Gatos. Fellow officers, firefighters, and residents lined the streets to salute him as the procession went by.

The last San Jose officer killed in the line of duty was Jeffrey Fontana, who was shot during a vehicle stop in 2001. DeShawn Campbell was convicted in the case.

Johnson and Fontana were in the same police academy class.

Mayor Sam Liccardo expressed sympathies to Johnson's family, telling reporters: "This has been San Jose's darkest hour."

Johnson will now become the 12th officer to have his photo added to the memorial wall at the department's headquarters.

A restaurant that's popular with San Jose police is holding a fundraiser to commemorate the fallen officer and raise money for his family. Brittania Arms will hold the fundraiser on April 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. at its location at 5027 Almaden Expressway. Manager Steve Moreno tells ABC7 News that all sales -- not profits or a percentage -- will go to the officer's family.

If you would like to extend your condolences to the officer's family and the San Jose Police Department, click here. We've posted a badge on Facebook for you to share, to honor his memory, and his service.

ABC7 News reporters David Louie and Chris Nguyen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.