GOOD EARTH, Mo. — A Missouri man convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis-area police officer he blamed in the death of his younger brother was executed Tuesday night.
Kevin Johnson, 37, died after being injected with pentobarbital at Bonne Terre State Prison. It was the second state execution this year and the 17th nationally. Two more executions are scheduled in Missouri in the first weeks of 2023.
Johnson’s lawyers did not deny killing Officer William McEntee in 2005, but argued he was sentenced to death in part because he was black. But the courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and Republican Gov. Mike Parson have refused to stop the execution.
Johnson declined to make a final statement before the deadly drug was administered.
In a first for modern executions in Missouri, Johnson was not alone in the execution room. His spiritual advisor, the Reverend Darryl Gray, sat beside him. The men spoke softly until the medicine was administered. Gray read the Bible while Johnson closed his eyes. Within seconds, all movement ceased. Gray, one of St. Louis’ leading racial injustice activists, continued to read the Bible or pray while patting Johnson on the shoulder.
“We read the scriptures and had a word of prayer,” Gray said. “He apologized again. He apologized to the victim’s family. He apologized to his family. He said he was looking forward to seeing his little brother. And he said that he was ready.
McEntee, 43, was a 20-year veteran of the police department in Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis. A husband and father of three, he was among 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 believe he violated probation.
Johnson saw officers arrive and woke up his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran to a nearby house. Once there, the boy, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and began having a seizure.
Johnson testified at trial that McEntee prevented his mother from entering the house to help his brother, who died shortly afterwards in a hospital.
That evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to verify unrelated reports of fireworks being set off. A court filing from the Missouri attorney general’s office said McEntee was in his car interrogating three children when Johnson shot him through the open passenger-side window, hitting the man’s leg, head and torso. ‘officer. A teenager was hit but survived. Johnson then got into the car and took McEntee’s gun.
The court filing says Johnson walked down the street and told his mother that McEntee was “letting my brother die” and “needed to see what it’s like to die.” Although she told him, “That’s not true,” Johnson returned to the filming location and found McEntee alive, kneeling by the patrol car. Johnson shot McEntee in the back and in the head, killing him.
McEntee’s wife, Mary McEntee, read a statement after Tuesday’s execution that Johnson acted as “judge, jury and executioner” in killing her husband.
“Bill was killed on all fours in front of strangers, the people he dedicated his life to,” said Mary McEntee.
Johnson’s lawyers had previously asked the courts to intervene on other grounds, including a history of mental illness and his age – 19 – at the time of the crime. Courts have increasingly moved away from sentencing teenage offenders to death since the Supreme Court in 2005 banned the execution of offenders who were under 18 at the time of their crime.
But a wider range of calls alleged racial bias. In October, St. Louis Circuit Judge Mary Elizabeth Ott appointed a special prosecutor to review the case. Special Prosecutor EE Keenan filed a motion earlier this month to overturn the death sentence, saying race played a “decisive factor” in the death sentence.
Ott refused to stop the execution, and appeals to the Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court were denied.
Keenan’s court filing said former St. Louis County District Attorney Bob McCulloch’s office handled five cases involving police deaths during his 28 years in office. McCulloch requested the death penalty in all four cases involving black defendants, but did not seek death in the one case where the defendant was white, according to the filing.
McCulloch, whose father was a police officer killed in the line of duty, witnessed the execution.
“It’s been long delayed, but justice has been served,” McCulloch said.
Johnson’s 19-year-old daughter, Khorry Ramey, had sought to witness the execution, but state law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from observing the process. The courts declined to intervene on Ramey’s behalf. Ramey was able to meet his father hours before the execution, said Karen Pojmann, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections.
The United States saw 98 executions in 1999, but the number has dropped dramatically in recent years. Missouri already has two scheduled for early 2023. Convicted killer Scott McLaughlin is scheduled to die Jan. 3, and convicted killer Leonard Taylor is scheduled to be executed Feb. 7.
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