The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

No-Bill in Sheriff Shooting

By Jordan Smith, December 19, 2003, News

A Travis Co. grand jury on Dec. 12 declined to indict Travis Co. sheriff's Sgt. Gregory Truitt in connection with the July 24 fatal shooting of Lennon Johnson. Sheriff Margo Frasier said she was "pleased" with the no-bill. "This case, as in all cases that involve the death of an individual, is indeed tragic," she said in a prepared statement. "However we must remember that as a result of Sergeant Truitt's actions the life of Patricia Harrison was saved as well as his own."

According to the TCSO, the scenario that ended with Johnson's death went like this: Truitt and TCSO Deputy Dan Whitehead, traveling in the same car, were stopped for a light at the intersection of Smith and Bolm roads (near Bolm's intersection with U.S. 183 in Govalle) just after 7:30am on July 24, when a car pulled up to them. When the driver, 35-year-old Harrison, began asking the deputies for help, Frasier said, Truitt thought Harrison needed directions and asked her to pull over. But when Harrison reportedly yelled, "He won't let me go," Truitt and Whitehead realized Harrison was also struggling with Johnson, her passenger. The two officers then approached the car on foot, and Whitehead managed to get Harrison out through the driver's door, but Truitt failed to pull Johnson out the passenger's door, even with Whitehead pushing from the other side. Johnson, who Frasier said had been smoking crack cocaine, was able to overpower both deputies, move himself into the driver's seat, and pull Truitt partially into the car -- at which point Johnson hit the gas and headed west on Bolm. Near the Airport Boulevard intersection, Johnson allegedly steered the car into oncoming traffic, nearly colliding with an oncoming 18-wheeler. Crossing against the light at Airport, Johnson allegedly made a quick left onto Gullett, a dead-end residential block. While traveling down Gullett, Johnson allegedly told Truitt, "This is a dead-end street; we're going to crash." Truitt pulled his service weapon and fired once into Johnson's chest, killing him. The car jumped a curb, hit a fire hydrant and came to rest on a lawn at the corner of Gullett and Lyons Road.

Truitt was cleared of any wrongdoing not only by internal investigators and detectives with the department's Major Crimes Unit, but also by the Texas Rangers, whom Frasier asked to be a part of the case. The grand jury's no-bill means the 15-year department veteran is now free to return to his patrol duties.

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