(Host) Services were held on Friday in Bradford for a Vermont State trooper who was killed in the line of duty last Sunday. Police say trooper Michael Johnson was killed when a car driven by 23-year-old Eric Daley of Lebanon, New Hampshire struck him on Interstate 91 in Norwich. Authorities said Daley was fleeing another police stop.
Hundreds turned out to honor the fallen trooper, as VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Sound of bagpipes.)
(Zind) Michael Johnson was buried on the last day of spring under a brilliant blue sky. Outside Oxbow High School hundreds of troopers from as far away as California gathered to mourn Johnson’s death, joining local police and fire and emergency medical personnel from around Vermont. Dan Bray is one of two Georgia State Troopers who made the trip.
(Bray) “We’re all a brotherhood, regardless of where we’re from.”
(Zind) As hundreds of people filled the gymnasium, where Johnson was to begin his first season as basketball coach this fall, state police contingents from the six New England states and New Jersey and Pennsylvania took their places outside, forming long lines of blue and green uniforms.
If the solemnity and ceremony outside were for Michael Johnson the trooper, the memorial service inside was for Mike Johnson the person.
(Bartlett) “Six years ago a whirlwind descended over the town of Bradford, Vermont. It was a police takeover of a small village as Michael Johnson was transferred to the Bradford Barracks and promoted to Sergeant and took up his duties here.”
(Zind) Harvey Bartlett was Johnson’s Pastor at the Congregational Church in Bradford.
(Bartlett) “Mike Johnson loved as he lived. Strong, strong love as a husband and father. Strong love for his friends. Put simply, it didn’t take very long to become a friend of Mike’s he didn’t let you take any time. He was not the most introverted person I’ve ever met.”
(Zind) After Governor James Douglas paid tribute to Johnson’s service and sacrifice, friends and family stood to tell stories about Johnson. A couple of state troopers walked around passing out tissues.
Johnson was described as someone who lived life with gusto, enthusiasm and wonderment – a man who, one of his brothers said, loved for the New Jersey shore and the New York Giants.
(Johnson’s brother) “Today we’d like to celebrate Mike’s life. If you don’t mind I’m going to ask for a little help for Mike. I’m going to put this Giant hat on. I said to his next door neighbor who came to the wake yesterday, he had a Giant shirt on, I said, ‘You’re the only one that’s dressed appropriately.”
(Zind) Another of Johnson’s brothers spoke at the end of the service
(Johnson’s brother) “For people there who are probably saying he sounds too good to be true, he was.”
(Zind) Michael Johnson leaves a wife and three children. The Vermont State Troopers have established a fund to help support the Johnson family.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.