CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WAVE) - A police officer with the Charlestown Police Department has died after complications due to COVID-19.
Detective Sergeant TeJuan Johnson, 47, served with the department for 13 years. He served in multiple roles including Field Training Officer, police bike patrol, narcotics detective, and shift commander.
Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 over three weeks ago. It’s unclear how Johnson contracted the virus. He was put on a ventilator before losing his battle to the virus on Wednesday.
“Definitely a sad day, tough day here in Charlestown, Charlestown police department and TJ’s family,” Charlestown Police Chief Tim Wolff said.
Wolff described Johnson as mischievous and a prankster.
“You could get so fired up mad at TJ but he would say or look at you a certain way and you’d be like alright I forgive you or whatever. He was a prankster, jokester,” Wolff said. “But he was also very serious. He took his job very seriously. He was a guy I could always count on. If I needed a shift covered or something done, TJ was one of my go-to guys.”
Wolff said Johnson was one of the best detectives he’s known.
“He’s going to be irreplaceable. He was well-liked by those in the department and well-liked by all law enforcement agencies in the county,” Wolff said.
Over the last several days, Wolff said he has received a lot of phone calls and talked to many people who knew Johnson.
“Everybody’s got a TJ story, and that’s just the guy he was. Very likeable and he will be sorely missed,” Wolff said.
Wednesday, people honored Johnson with procession from Clark Memorial Hospital to Grayson Funeral Home in Charlestown.
“I think [his death has] rocked the community,” Andrea Stuthers, who has known Johnson for five years, said. “You have the loss of TJ which is a huge loss for the whole community, for everyone. Then you also have the fact that he was just so young and that’s not what you typically associate with a death with this disease, this virus.”
Stuthers, along with dozens of others, lined up outside the city’s square, holding signs and holding back tears, watching the hearse drive into town.
“TJ was an amazing person. Just all around. Big heart, willing to help anybody,” Stuthers said.
In the past 3 weeks, Charlestown has been hit pretty hard with COVID, Mayor Treva Hodges said.
“We have 47 staff members here in the city of Charlestown, and 11 so far have had COVID-19,” Hodges said. “Most have recovered, some had no symptoms, some were very sick for a while, now we’ve had our first death.”
Hodges said Johnson had no underlying health conditions and said he was fit.
She described Johson as a “permanent fixture” around Charlestown. She recalled seeing him at a local diner with family, always joking and smiling.
“He was active with the Shop for Cop program and our entire community,” Hodges said. “I grieve with the family and the police department.”
Chief Wolff Mayor Hodges are hopeful people will take the coronavirus seriously.
“We don’t want any more unnecessary losses in Charlestown or anywhere else,” Hodges said. “We will all miss [Johnson] terribly.”
The Christmas light display in the city’s square is honoring and remembering him and his service by showing off his badge number 562.
The Charlestown Police Department is asking the community to keep the department in their prayers.
“I know we will come together,” Wolff said. “We have a lot of support from the community.”
Johnson’s death comes just ten days before the two-year anniversary of Charlestown Police Sgt. Ben Bertram’s death. On Dec. 12, 2018, Bertram was killed during a police chase after he lost control of his cruiser.
“Two line of duty deaths in a small city, small agency in two years is really tragic,” Chief Wolff said. “It’s been a really tough week.”
Funeral arrangements for Johnson have not been announced yet.