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

CSMA planning to hire security

Merchants association would like to cut down on panhandling and vagrants along the retail side of Cedar Springs

SAFETY AND SECURITY  |  OutLines owner David Lester believes that a security guard will help make shopping on Cedar Springs a safer and more pleasant experience. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

SAFETY AND SECURITY | OutLines manager David Lester believes that a security guard will help make shopping on Cedar Springs a safer and more pleasant experience. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Cedar Springs Merchants Association decided to hire a guard to patrol the east side of Cedar Springs Road. Store owners and landlords will fund the additional security.

Caven Enterprises, owner of four bars on the west side Cedar Springs, has had guards patrol that side of the street for years.

CSMA President Scott Whittall said several incidents prompted hiring the guard.

“We deal with panhandlers and vagrants daily,” Whittall said.

A burglary at OutLines several weeks ago was among the incidents that prompted the move.

OutLines manager David Lester said, “A gentleman of dubious character was in the store.”

He said the salesman kept an eye on him. The man said he was going to purchase six pairs of jeans, selected a variety of sizes and styles and took them to the counter. The salesman followed the man to the cash register but as he walked behind the counter, the man grabbed the slacks and ran out the door.

Lester said the presence of security on the street would help.

“The security person will have a phone,” he said.

A salesman in a store could call the guard to come down to that store. Lester said it might not have prevented the theft, but the man would have been less likely to grab and run if a guard was standing outside the front door.

“The presence tends to tell people we’re watching,” he said.

He said at night during the week the parking in back can be dark and lonely. A security guard could watch people as they go to their cars.

However, the guard will not be full time. The days and hours will vary from week to week.

Lester said that it would be nice to have someone full-time but this is what they can afford. He said the fluctuating schedule would make it harder to announce which hours would be best for shoplifting. Some days the guard will patrol during the afternoon. Other days security will continue into the evening.

Caven Enterprises has employed security guards around its clubs and parking lots for years.

“We’ve had security as long as I’ve worked for this company,” said Caven president Gregg Kilhoffer, who has been with the company for 27 years.

On any one night Caven has three to seven guards — one at each club entrance, one in the parking lot, one in paid parking and one or two roaming the perimeter.

“Security is very important,” Kilhoffer said, “And I’m very proud of that.”

Kilhoffer, who is on the board of the merchant’s association, said he would like to see security during the day for the stores and restaurants.

“That would help us deal with people who harass customers,” he said.

Whittall said that CSMA is still interviewing companies to provide the protection required. He said he thought they had a deal with one company but that company wasn’t willing to patrol on a varying schedule.
“Vagrants know when security is there,” Whittall said.

Police advised the group to vary hours and days to keep panhandlers and vagrants off-guard.

Whittall said that in his eight years as a Cedar Springs merchant, he hadn’t encountered any violent crime along the street. And a security guard would not patrol the residential streets where many people park on weekends where muggings have occurred.

Lester said that unfortunately a guard wouldn’t have prevented the recent hit-and-run accidents involving pedestrians either.

But Whittall said panhandling is a major problem that merchants hoped to get under control.

“Not a day went by that I didn’t have to deal with it,” Whittall said.

Whittall sold Buli and the transfer to new owners happened last week. He said the new owners had to deal with a panhandler in the store the first hour they were running the business.

To fund the guard, CSMA planned to hold a holiday dinner and cabaret on Friday, Dec. 2 at The Rose Room. Whittall said that several other events that evening conflicted including a Human Rights Campaign holiday party. Only half the seats sold so CSMA decided to postpone it.

Whittall said the event will be moved to early spring. Singer Linda Petty who was slated to appear, told him that she would be available for the group whenever they rescheduled it. She said she’d rather sing for a full house to help them raise more money.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Police blotter: Hit-and-run on Cedar Springs

Valentine’s Day got off to a bad start when a motorist intentionally struck two pedestrians near Havana Bar & Grill on Cedar Springs Road early Monday, according to police reports.

Reports say the suspect and the victim, a 39-year-old black male, got into an argument that became a physical fight at about 2 a.m. at 4008 Cedar Springs Road. After a security guard stepped in to break up the fight, the suspect got in a vehicle and intentionally accelerated toward the victim. The suspect’s vehicle struck the victim as well as a witness, before the suspect fled northbound on Cedar Springs Road. The two injured people were taken to Parkland hospital.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said Tuesday that police hadn’t made any arrests.

“Victim is claiming he doesn’t remember what happened,” Janse said. “No one knows the suspect and there are conflicting stories about what really took place. Detectives will continue to try to get to the bottom of what really happened. It is unknown the condition of the victim at this time.”

The suspect’s vehicle is described as a cream-colored, four-door Nissan. Anyone with information can call the Crimes Against Persons Division at 214- 671-3584.

—  John Wright

Leader of anti-gay group in Amarillo plans to publicly burn Quran on 9/11 anniversary

A Florida pastor may have called off his plan to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But David Grisham, the leader of a militant evangelical group in Amarillo, tells the local CBS affiliate that he plans to publicly burn the Muslim holy book on Saturday. Grisham is the leader of Repent Amarillo, which gained attention in January when it launched a boycott of Houston after the city elected on openly gay mayor, Annise Parker:

According to Grisham, he has questioned why he should go through with his plan, but in the end, he feels it is right.

“Terrorism was seeded by the ideas in the Quran. It’s the Quran that has put our troops in danger. Burning one isn’t going to put our troops in danger. It’s the ideas contained in that book that put them in danger,” said Grisham.

Grisham is a security guard at a nuclear-bomb facility called Pantex, according to media reports. Repent Amarillo goes by the moniker “Army of God” and refers to itself as the “special forces of spiritual warfare.” The group has also gained attention for a campaign to shut down a local swingers club, as well as a “warfare map” posted on its website identifying its enemies in Amarillo.

—  John Wright