Terrence Johnson: 1979-80
Terrence Johnson was 15 when he shot officers Claggett and James Swart in the basement of the Hyattsville, Maryland police station using a gun he grabbed from Claggett.

Johnson, who was initially arrested and charged with the theft of $29.75 in coins from a Laundromat, presented evidence at his trial as an adult for murder that Claggett was beating him and he feared for his life.

Johnson was ultimately convicted of manslaughter in Claggett’s death and the illegal use of a handgun..

Johnson was African American and the two officers were white. At the time of his conviction, Prince George’s County was under federal pressure to desegregate its police department and had a reputation for racially motivated brutality.

Johnson supporters charged that state’s attorney Arthur “Bud” Marshall did not try to get an indictment against the white policemen who shot unarmed black suspects last year.

Marshall was quoted as saying, "I didn't go before the grand jury to seek an indictment in the Johnson case, either. I have always made it a policy to prosecute shootings involving the police, whether they are victims or defendants," once charges are brought.

No police officer involved in a shooting incident had ever been indicted in Prince George’s County.

Additionally, the county had just undergone several tumultuous years of court ordered busing of students to achieve integration prompting mass demonstrations by white parents against the courts.

Demonstrations in support of and against Johnson occurred before, during and after the trial.

During the trial protesters gathered outside courtroom beating drums and chanting "Free Terrance" and "We say no to police brutality and racism." The day after the verdict, 142 of 150 Prince George’s officers scheduled for the day shift failed to show in protest of the jury verdict.

The judge gave him the maximum sentence on both counts. Johnson served 17 years in prison before being released on parole. He earned a B.A. from Morgan State while in prison and enrolled in law school upon his release.

However, in 1997, police encircled Johnson and a brother after the robbery of an Aberdeen Maryland bank. Johnson used a pistol to shoot himself dead before he could be arrested.

John A. Bartlett Jr., the president of the county's Fraternal Order of Police, spoke about the divided feelings among Prince George’s officers upon hearing the news of Johnson’s death.

“There are those who say this man killed two individuals who were respected law enforcement officers, but not all officers feel that way. I have officers who feel it might have been racially motivated and that Terrence might have been defending his life."
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