January 16, 1965 – May 6, 2000
Trooper Rick L. Johnson died as a result of injuries sustained when he was struck by a vehicle while conducting a traffic stop on I-94 in Van Buren County, Saturday, May 6, 2000.
At 7:00 a.m. Saturday, May 6, Trooper Johnson reported for duty at the Paw Paw Post. He was assigned to the day shift.
At approximately 11:56 a.m., Trooper Johnson stopped a motor vehicle on westbound I-94, one quarter of a mile east of M-51, for defective equipment. Trooper Johnson stopped the vehicle, occupied by two subjects, on the north shoulder of the roadway.
Trooper Johnson approached the stopped vehicle on the passenger side, making contact with the driver and other occupant of the vehicle. After speaking with the occupants, Trooper Johnson started to return to his patrol vehicle. As Trooper Johnson was walking back between the patrol vehicle and the vehicle he had stopped, a third vehicle drove off the roadway and struck the rear of his patrol unit.
The impact of the collision first pinned Trooper Johnson between the two vehicles, and then trapped him underneath his patrol unit as it spun into the travel lanes. Trooper Johnson was extricated and treated at the scene by emergency personnel, then flown by Air Care to Bronson Hospital in the city of Kalamazoo. Shortly after arrival at the hospital, Trooper Johnson was pronounced dead due to injuries sustained in the crash.
The driver of the vehicle which struck Trooper Johnson was a 21 year old female. She had reportedly been distracted by actions within her vehicle. She had driven off the roadway, onto the shoulder before striking the patrol vehicle. In addition to herself, other occupants of the vehicle included her mother and two young children. The occupants of the vehicle were treated and released at Bronson Hospital.
After review by the Van Buren County Prosecutor Office, the driver of the vehicle was charged with Negligent Homicide. She was later arraigned on the charge at the 7th East District Court in Paw Paw.
Ironically, just the day before his fatal accident, Trooper Johnson had successfully talked a suicidal man out of jumping off of an overpass just a mile away from what would become the scene of his own death.
Trooper Rick L. Johnson is the 48th MSP officer to die in the line of duty.