A Missouri inmate convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis area police officer whom he blamed for his younger brother’s death was scheduled to be executed Tuesday, barring a last-minute intervention.
Kevin Johnson’s legal team doesn’t deny that he killed Officer William McEntee in 2005, but contended in an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court that he was sentenced to death in part because he is Black. But in a 5-2 ruling late Monday, the state Supreme Court denied a stay. Johnson’s lawyers responded by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The State of Missouri is poised to execute Kevin Johnson tonight, not for his crimes, but because he is Black,” one of his attorneys, Shawn Nolan, said in a statement.
The U.S. Supreme Court last week denied an earlier stay request. Gov. Mike Parson on Monday announced that he would not grant clemency.
“The violent murder of any citizen, let alone a Missouri law enforcement officer, should be met only with the fullest punishment state law allows,” Parson, a Republican and a former county sheriff, said in a statement. “Through Mr. Johnson’s own heinous actions, he stole the life of Sergeant McEntee and left a family grieving, a wife widowed, and children fatherless. Clemency will not be granted.
Johnson, 37, faces execution Tuesday evening at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He would be the second Missouri man put to death in 2022 and the 17th nationally.
Ahead of the execution, supporters of clemency for Johnson are holding protests in Jefferson City, St. Louis, Kansas City and Bonne Terre.
McEntee, 43, was a 20-year veteran of the police department in Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb. The father of three was among the officers sent to Johnson’s home on July 5, 2005, to serve a warrant for his arrest. Johnson was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend, and police believed he had violated probation.
Johnson saw officers arrive and awoke his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran to a house next door. Once there, the boy, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and began having a seizure.
Johnson testified at trial that McEntee kept his mother from entering the house to aid his brother, who died a short time later at a hospital.
That same evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to check on unrelated reports of fireworks being shot off. A court filing from the Missouri attorney general’s office said McEntee was in his car questioning three children when Johnson shot him through the open passenger-side window, striking the officer’s leg, head and torso. Johnson then got into the car and took McEntee’s gun.