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Suspect in SL County deputies' shooting had long criminal history, active warrant

Joshua Michael Johnson.jpg
Posted at 3:59 PM, Apr 12, 2021

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Past court documents show that the man who shot two Salt Lake County Sheriff's deputies had an extensive criminal history, including an active warrant for leaving his drug rehabilitation program in February.

Joshua Michael Johnson, 31, shot the pair of deputies Saturday morning as they approached him while patrolling the sheriff's office complex, according to law enforcement officials.

Deputy Joshua Buerke and Deputy Leland Grossett fired back, killing Johnson.

Buerke was shot in the cheek and released from the hospital on Saturday.

Grossett was shot in the eye, which he ultimately lost. He was released Monday afternoon.

READ: 2nd Salt Lake County deputy wounded in weekend shooting released from hospital

As of the most recent update, police did not know why Johnson shot at the deputies, nor what he was doing at the complex (which includes the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake headquarters, and the Salt Lake County Metro Jail). However, Sheriff Rosie Rivera said Saturday that it appeared he was experiencing homelessness based on items that were found in the area.

Saturday was not Johnson's first brush with the law. From 2012 to as recently as January of this year, he has been arrested for various charges. They include assault, robbery, burglary, theft, and numerous drug-related charges. He had pleaded guilty to some, while others were dismissed with or without prejudice.

According to court records, Johnson had an active warrant for his arrest at the time of the shooting.

READ: Utah community reacts to Salt Lake County Sheriff's complex shooting

The warrant stemmed from a 2018 case, in which Johnson pleaded guilty to two drug possession charges and one count of providing false personal information.

After allegedly violating his probation, he was again arrested in August of 2020. His new sentence included being ordered to attend treatment or counseling "as directed by probation agency."

Johnson was again arrested on separate drug-related charges on Jan. 1.

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Mugshot: Joshua Michael Johnson (January 2021)

He was then admitted into Odyssey House, an addiction rehabilitation center, in early February. Just a few days later, he left the facility "against clinical advice," court documents state.

Warrants for his arrest were issued on Feb. 8 and 19, and court records indicate they were never served.

Saturday's shooting is under investigation by an officer-involved protocol team, made up of members of outside police agencies. Sheriff Rosie Rivera said there is surveillance footage of the incident, but no bodycam footage as the deputies on the campus do not have them.

On Saturday, many local community leaders, elected officials and fellow law enforcement agencies and members expressed their sympathies and well-wishes to the two deputies and their families.

Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff's Office did the same, but he also added that it’s also important to remember the family of the suspect.

“For me and so many others, the other thought that comes out of this is that there’s another family or something who’s out there, and they’re suffering now because there’s been a loved one lost,” he said.

Grossett's family released a statement Sunday that also included a kind message to Johnson's family.

"One man's life was lost in this shooting and we want to express our condolences to his family. We hope they are able to find peace and know that we harbor no ill will," the statement read in part.