BONNE TERRE, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Corrections successfully carried out its execution of Kevin Johnson early Tuesday evening.
The execution was carried out at 7:40 p.m. at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Johnson, 37, died via lethal injection. Prior to his execution, he made no final statement.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson issued the following statement after Johnson’s death:
“Today, the State of Missouri carried out Kevin Johnson’s sentence as ordered by the Missouri Supreme Court. Mr. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2005 murder of Sgt. Bill McEntee. Mr. Johnson’s claims were reviewed by state and federal courts, and no court reversed his conviction or sentence. We hope that this will bring some closure to Sgt. McEntee’s loved ones who continue to anguish without him.”
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute appeal for a stay of execution around 6:30 p.m. In the order, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said they would have granted the stay.
Johnson was sentenced to death on Feb. 1, 2008, for the murder of Kirkwood Police Sergeant William McEntee.
In emails sent to The Kansas City Star in the days leading up to his execution, Johnson said he was “unconditionally sorry” for his crimes.
Johnson, then 19, killed McEntee during a fit of rage on July 5, 2005, over his younger brother’s death, which he blamed on police.
According to court documents, McEntee was one of the police officers sent to Johnson’s house to serve a warrant for his arrest. Johnson was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend, and police believed he violated probation. After waking his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, the boy ran to his grandmother’s house next door, where he began having a seizure and collapsed.
During the subsequent trials, Johnson testified that McEntee kept his mother from entering the house to help his brother. Bam Bam died later at the hospital.
Later that night, McEntee returned to Kirkwood’s Meacham Park neighborhood to check on a report of fireworks. Johnson approached McEntee while he was seated in his police vehicle and shot him multiple times. He returned a short time later and shot Sgt. McEntee twice more after McEntee had pulled himself from the car and was on his hands and knees.
McEntee, 46, was a 19-year veteran of the police force. He left behind a wife and three children.
During Johnson’s first trial in 2007, the jury deadlocked but agreed to convict him of the lesser offense of second-degree murder. Months later, a new jury found him guilty of first-degree murder.
When Johnson was sentenced in February 2008, McEntee’s widow told the court justice could only be served if Johnson paid with his own life.
In a recent appeal, Special Prosecutor E.E. Keenan claimed there was racial bias in the prosecution of the case.
Keenan claimed that former St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch and his office handled five different cases involving the deaths of police officers. Of those cases, four of the defendants were black, all of whom McCulloch sought the death penalty for. In the one case involving a white defendant, the death penalty was not sought. Keenan also accused McCulloch of making certain there were no Black jurors for Johnson’s second trial.
Neither Keenan nor Johnson’s attorneys disputed that Johnson killed Sgt. McEntee. They had hoped his sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment.
McEntee’s widow, Mary, released the following statement:
“An execution occurred on July 5th, 2005. Sgt. William McEntee was ambushed and shot five times in his police car. He crashed his car up the street and Kevin Johnson decided to be judge, jury and executioner when he walked back to Bill’s car, and he was on his hands and knees in his own pool of blood, when Kevin Johnson shot him two more times, execution style in the back of his head. A murder so bad, Kevin Johnson’s own cousin, who was watching this happen, had threw up.
“Our family chose not to focus on all the injustice and negativity that was said about Bill, my husband, a brother and father and son during this process. Instead, we surrounded ourselves with faith, family, friends and love, and those who knew what a good man Bill was and that loved him.
“All the slanders and comments and judgements are unfounded and simply not true. To slander a good man’s name and try to tarnish his reputation and spew hate is just, just to change to the sentence that was a horrible thing to do to our family.
“Bill was killed on his hands and knees in front of strangers and people he dedicated his life to. When he left for work that day, we could not imagine that he would be executed by someone he gave his life to protect.
“Bill didn’t get to fight for his life. He didn’t have the chance to be heard before a jury to decide whether he would live or die.
“His children were devastated that their dad was murdered, being 7, 10, and 13. They didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. It took 17 years of grieving and pushing forward to get to this point today.
“This is something I hope no other family has to go through, because you truly never forget or get over. Our family has been able to get through this the best we can despite all the obstacles that have been thrown at us including the constant attacks of Bill’s character. During this process, many have forgotten, Bill was the victim.
“We miss Bill every day of our lives. We are broken, and he was executed July 5th, 2005. Our family would like to thank the hard work and endless hours put in for justice for Bill: Bob McCulloch, Lisa Jones, victims service advocate, and the attorney generals’ office, who have worked tirelessly and for our family.”