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Suspect in fatal weekend shooting of Nyssa reserve police officer arrested at Ontario home

Nyssa Police Reserve Corporal Joe Johnson
Nyssa Police Dept.
Nyssa Police Reserve Corporal Joe Johnson

(Update: Adding slain police corporal's photo)

ONTARIO (KTVZ) – The suspect in Saturday night’s fatal shooting of a Nyssa reserve police officer was arrested Monday morning at a home in Ontario, about 13 miles away, Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe said.

The Oregon State Police Swat Team, along with members of the FBI, Ontario Police, Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies surrounded the home in Ontario around 6:40 a.m. and began calling occupants out, the DA said.

About an hour later, suspect Rene Castro, 36, of Nyssa, came out of a structure and was taken into custody by OSP SWAT personnel, Goldthorpe said. No injuries were reported.

"We want to thank the team of investigators who have been working tirelessly for the past 36 hours to locate and arrest Castro," the DA said in a news release. "While the arrest has been made, the investigators are still processing evidence and continuing their work."

More information on the investigation may be released Monday evening, Goldthorpe added.

Nyssa Police Reserve Corporal Joseph Johnson, 43, died after a man he had pursued in a car shot at him. The man identified by authorities as Castro fled and Johnson was dead when sheriff's officers and medical workers arrived, The Oregonian reported.

Johnson responded around 8:20 p.m. to reports the man was making threats to others and damaging property, Goldthorpe said in a statement Sunday.

When it appeared Castro was stopping at a home at the corner of Locust and Third Street North, Johnson pulled off the road and the suspect immediately began shooting at him, Goldthorpe said, adding, "There was no time to return fire before Officer Johnson was fatally hit."

Castro fled and medics quickly arrived on scene, as did sheriff's deputies, but the DA said Johnson already had died. An Oregon State Police trooper arrived soon and helped establish a perimeter and question possible witnesses.

OSP is leading the investigation, with help from "pretty much every police agency from various departments in Idaho all the way to La Grande, including federal authorities," the district attorney said.

"The appreciation, love, and concern of all citizens of Malheur County go out to the family of Officer Johnson," Goldthorpe said. "The Fallen Badge Foundation is accepting donations on behalf of the family."

Gov. Tina Kotek Sunday night ordered flags at public institutions lowered to half-staff Monday in honor of Johnson, who she said leaves behind a wife and two children, and also worked at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario.

Nyssa, population 3,200, is near the Idaho state line, about 50 miles northwest of Boise.


News release Sunday evening from Gov. Tina Kotek:

Salem, Oregon – Today, Governor Tina Kotek issued a statement in response to the death of Nyssa Police Department Reserve Officer Joseph Johnson, who was killed in the line of duty. Officer Johnson was also an Oregon Department of Corrections employee, assigned to Snake River Correctional Institution. 

"This is an absolute tragedy. I extend my sincere condolences to Officer Johnson’s family, friends, and the public safety community who knew him well," Governor Kotek said. “Officer Johnson’s service and dedication to his community and our state will not be forgotten.”

Governor Kotek has ordered flags at Oregon public institutions to be flown at half-staff until sunset April 17, in honor and remembrance of Officer Johnson’s sacrifice.

Officer Johnson is survived by his wife and two children. The Fallen Badge Foundation is accepting donations on behalf of the family.

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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