Balch Springs PD: Investigation into gay man’s death is ongoing

Police chief says anti-gay behavior by officers not tolerated, says such behavior by investigator is unlikely

Police_Chief_Morris

Police Chief Ed Morris

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

BALCH SPRINGS — Balch Springs Police Chief Ed Morris said an investigation into the death of a gay man in his city is ongoing. Answering charges of homophobia in his department lodged by the dead man’s family, Morris said that he doesn’t tolerate that sort of behavior in his officers.

The body of Rodney Johnson was found in his trailer in Balch Springs on Nov. 12.

Morris said that there was no sign of foul play in Johnson’s death but that his department is awaiting test results from the Dallas County medical examiner before proceeding with an investigation. Those results take about three months to return.

Johnson’s sister Duby Redburn said that the officer she spoke to snickered and said, “I don’t know what sort of lifestyle he led,” when describing what he found.

“He was very insensitive,” Redburn said of the detective’s behavior.

Morris made it clear he wouldn’t tolerate that sort of behavior from his officers.

“I don’t think any of my officers would make an anti-gay comment,” he said.

He said that if he thought that any officer was guilty of that sort of behavior, that officer would be in his office immediately and he would take care of it. But Morris said he would especially surprised if he heard it about the specific officer Redburn accused.

Johnson did not show up for work at his job as a security guard at a Bank of America branch on Thursday, Nov. 10. His supervisor became worried when she couldn’t reach him by phone, so she drove to his home. When he didn’t answer the door, she called police.

The supervisor and Johnson’s family have said police never responded to the call.

But Morris said department records indicate that Johnson’s supervisor’s call to police was logged at 2:41 p.m. on Nov. 11, and that a patrol car was dispatched to Johnson’s address at 2:49 p.m. He said that was reasonable response time for that sort of non-emergency “welfare check” call.

Police arrived at 3:03 p.m. at the location, Morris said.

The officer responding to the call reported that there was no odor coming from the trailer.

He asked neighbors about Johnson’s car that was parked in an odd position. Neighbors said it had been there for several days.

Morris said they searched records to see if there were additional calls from the supervisor’s phone number but could not find any, although the supervisor said she had called both 911 and the department’s direct line phone number.

A police department spokesman initially told Dallas Voice there was no record of either call.

Johnson’s body was found the next day when his brother, Roger Johnson, got a call from Rodney’s boyfriend in Canada, worried that he hadn’t heard from him. Roger Johnson used his key to the trailer to enter, and found his brother lying on the floor, face down.

Roger Johnson had said his brother’s body was lying in a pool of blood.

The call record indicates police were dispatched in 30 seconds and arrived in minutes.

Morris said he didn’t recall seeing any blood on the floor in the police pictures taken before Johnson was transported by helicopter to the hospital. But he said the body showed signs of lividity, meaning the blood had settled to the lower part of the body, which indicated he had been lying on the floor for some time before he was found.

Other issues remain unresolved, such as an unauthorized attempt to access Johnson’s bank account the week after his death. But since the original article appeared in

Dallas Voice on Dec. 23, Redburn has been in touch with city officials and has been assured the case is still open.
Last year, Balch Springs had no homicides.

“The crime rate’s been down for the last few years,” Morris said. “We want to keep it that way.”
But he said that if there is an indication from the medical examiner that Johnson’s death was caused by anything other than natural causes, “We will actively investigate.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Family angry at Balch Springs PD’s response to brother’s death

Duby Redburn says police failed to respond to the first calls for help, and that an officer made an anti-gay comment while discussing the case with her

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

BALCH SPRINGS — The sister of a gay Balch Springs man said this week she believes the Balch Springs Police Department’s failure to answer a call at his home may have contributed to his death last month. And she claims that an officer’s anti-gay response to her inquiries make her question how thoroughly her brother’s death will be investigated.

Duby Redburn said that her brother Rodney Johnson’s body was found by another brother, laying face down on the floor of his mobile home, in a pool of blood.

But when Redburn spoke to Balch Springs police Investigator Thomas Clements, she said he told her they found her brother sitting at the computer with his pants down. Redburn said the cop told her, “I don’t know what sort of lifestyle he led,” and snickered.

“He was very insensitive,” she said.

And Redburn wondered why calls to Balch Springs police two nights before the body was found went unanswered.

When Johnson did not show up for work at his job as a security guard at a Bank of America branch on Thursday, Nov. 10, his supervisor, Cheri Mendoza, became worried. And when she couldn’t reach him by phone, her worry grew.

It just wasn’t like Johnson to just not show up for work, Mendoza said, adding “You could set your watch by him.”

So Mendoza drove to the mobile home park where Johnson lived. Unable to get into the trailer and convinced something was wrong, she called and asked police to help.

Mendoza said she called both 9-1-1 and directly to the Balch Springs Police Department. But no officer showed up.

Mendoza’s calls are not listed on the police report.

Two days later, Rodney Johnson’s boyfriend, who lives in Canada, called Rodney’s brother, Roger Johnson. The boyfriend told Roger that while he and Rodney ordinarily spoke by phone every day, he had been unable to reach Rodney for two days.

So Roger Johnson called his brother, and when he got no answer, he took his key to Rodney’s home and went to check. That’s when Roger went into the trailer and found his brother’s body.

Redburn, who lives in California, this week told Dallas Voice she is frustrated after getting no answers from the police and the delays from the Dallas County Medical Examiner. She is also angry over the officer’s anti-gay comments about her brother.

She said her brother Rodney Johnson was diabetic, but was otherwise a healthy man. She described him as “good, honorable and upstanding.”

Redburn said her brother’s arms were underneath him as if he was trying to catch his fall. He was found naked but she said Rodney always slept in pajamas.

Several days later, Roger found that the mobile home had been broken into. Among the things taken were his sheets as well as jewelry,  a camera and his Bank of America badge. On Monday, Nov. 14, someone tried to access Rodney Johnson’s bank accounts.

Redburn wondered if that was related to the death or if someone simply broke into the home because it was not occupied.

Redburn said the missing sheets bothered her. She wondered if someone had returned to the house to take any possible DNA evidence that might be found or if someone simply used the sheet to carry out other items.

The Dallas County Medical Examiner told the family that test results would take three months to come back, the standard amount of time for toxicology tests to be returned.

Balch Springs police confirmed this week that they had no investigation open. Clements, who was assigned to the case, is out of the office for the week and was unavailable to comment.

The police report doesn’t indicate receiving a call from Mendoza but begins with the call from Roger Johnson on Nov. 12.

The report states that Rodney Johnson advised that “he thinks his brother is dead,” and that “he hadn’t heard from his brother in awhile so he went over there to check on him.”

The account ends two hours later with transferring the body to Dallas County.

Redburn was concerned that Balch Springs police weren’t investigating the death. She said her brother might have died of natural causes, but she questioned the police response to her.

She wondered why the police account of how the body was found differed from what her brother reported. The police report does not mention blood on the floor or position of the body.

Redburn doesn’t know if foul play was involved. She wonders if her brother was still alive when Mendoza arrived at the house. Had police responded to Mendoza’s call, Redburn wonders if her brother could have been saved.

Redburn said she hopes the medical examiner’s report will reveal whether there was a physical attack, if he died of natural causes and why there was no investigation when blood was found.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas