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by Peter Moskos

June 10, 2016

All in the Family (II): Another Nexus of Baltimore Violence

Forgive me for speaking ill of the dead, as I did a few days ago. But today the Baltimore Sun has a feature about a man who has had two sons murdered. Tragic. It really is. Nobody should have to deal with one child murdered, much less two.

But being cynical and a former Baltimore cop, I'm thinking maybe this is a case of, "you play the game, you take your chances." Zeus does not throw random thunderbolts. Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place. You get the idea? Did they "have it coming?"

But read Colin Campbell's sob story. These kids are presented as nothing but lost angels:
"He was my best friend," said [father] Nedrick Johnson, 38.

The Johnson brothers played pickup sports and rode dirt bikes since they were 5 or 6 years old, their father said. "They used to sneak them out of the house and everything," he said.

Both were athletic: Darrian played quarterback, and Darrius power lifted competitively, he said. Darrius shot pool, could do a flip off a wall with a running start, and would sometimes ride his dirt bike with one hand — or none.
Nedrick Johnson scrolled through photos of his sons on his cellphone: standing in front of the Christmas tree, sitting together at a family get-together, diving into a pool in tandem, popping wheelies on their dirt bikes.
Darrian was caring, helpful, loyal, supportive and fiercely protective, his friends said.
"He was the type to call you out of the blue," she said. "'You good?' 'I'm just checking on you.' 'You need anything?'"
Homes said Darrian was a great cook and a lifelong friend.

"He lived his life," he said. "No matter if he died young, he lived his life to the fullest."
All that and a "great cook"? My God! Norman Rockwell couldn't present such a dreamy All-American Family.

But it made my Spidey-Sense tingle. Maybe you shouldn't be "living life to the fullest" when you're 19 years old. When I was 19 I was studying in college and waiting tables. But my first warning sign was "popping wheelies on their bikes." Might seem wholesome to you. I love bicycles! Do you picture something like this?

(This guy is not a Johnson brother)

But in Baltimore we know what "dirt bike" means. (In a tweet, Colin confirmed "motor".) "Dirt bikes" are horrible for quality-of-life. And they kill people (eight between 1997 and 2000, as I have in my notes, but more since. Update: this (dirt bike seriously hurts pedestrian, runs) and this (car hits dirtbike, driven get beaten), and even this. But by some bleeding-heart narrative I don't understand, riding illegally and dangerously is just kids expressing themselves, even part of an uprising against racist cops.

I respectfully beg to differ.

First of all, good parents don't let their under-10 kids "sneak out" with any bike, much less a motor bike. "Oh, that Junior. You turn your head for a second and next you know he's doing wheelies on North Avenue!" Imagine the flack you'd get if you simply let your kid ride a bicycle without a helmet! You somehow it's OK for other children -- poor black kids in Baltimore -- to do no-hand tricks on motorbikes while going the wrong way in traffic?!

And, get this -- pay attention because this is important -- Baltimore police officers have gotten in trouble for trying to stop 7-year-olds from riding motorized ATVs in the streets. Why? I don't know, but I suspect because when people read, "police removed a 7-year-old from his bike and detained his mom," they're thinking the kind of bike with cards in the spokes, so the cops must be assholes. It lead to media and public outrage against the police. And also a multi-year lawsuit from the boy's mother (really from a lawyer who thought he could get a cut of the city payout.) The city actually fought the case and won.

[Update: That kid on a bike story got mentioned in the DOJ's 2016 report on the Baltimore Police Department as an example of how systemic problems are. No, not in Baltimore. But in the BPD. It makes no sense.]

Here's what I found from a brief search of Maryland's online criminal records.

Darrius Johnson -- the brother killed in a double-shooting in 2015 -- was born in October 1995 and had a moderate criminal record: assault, trespass, escape, burglary, assault, and trespass on school grounds. But keep in mind this record only covers the last two years of his life. Victims may beg to differ, but crimes don't officially count until you're an adult. (And there's even a movement to raise the age.)

Darrius's brother, the one just killed, Darrian "Doddy" Johnson, seems to have stayed on the good side of the law with no criminal record. [Update: I originally posted incorrect information here that listed a Darrian Johnson with a different DOB and address. This was kindly corrected by a commenter. Corrections are always welcome.]

But the real criminal seems to be their father. He's no father of the year. For starters there's the murder charge he faced when he was 15! (The disposition of the murder charge isn't clear -- hey, maybe he didn't do it -- but I suspect that when the case was booted up to circuit court, he got charged as a juvenile and the records were sealed.) There's a first-degree rape charge at 18 (got null prossed, as ineffective prosecution could be seen as form of ghetto criminal entitlement). (There's also the issue of some fraud case with the State Employees Credit Union that he lost for $34,000 plus court fees.)

And then there's the usual mélange of battery, assault, drugs possession with intent, more assault, drug dealing, more drugs, handgun violations, more drug dealings, assault, more handguns and drugs (not marijuana), armed robbery, and another handgun violation.

The three sons mentions in the article may just be the kids he willingly took responsibility for. Paternity suits indicate at least two other sons (including a Nedrick Jr. already been convicted of a handgun violation). In fact, best I can tell (I may be wrong) Senior had three sons in two years! [Update: originally I had the time frame wrong.]

Reading a fluff pieces like this in the papers, you might begin understand why cops hate "the media." Neighbors call 911 and complain about shitty and violent public drug dealing neighbors over the years and over the generations. Police respond day after day after day to the crimes of this family. We pay and expect police to deal with the Johnsons.

Let me say the taboo: Nedrick is a bad father and perhaps even a bad person. There. I've said it so cops don't have to.

Like the Antonios [sic] Addison and the Johnsons, some individual families are personally responsible for a disproportionate amount of violence and pain in Baltimore. Individual people on individual blocks actually are the problem. This isn't some abstract theory of crime. This really is about "these people" not in the abstract offensive sense but in the literal sense of these people with these names who live in this house and commit these crimes.

Police have to deal with the micro problems, the individuals, the Addisons and the Johnsons. Police don't deal with the macro issues of social justice. And since nobody else (government, church, school, welfare, prosecutors) seems to be able to deal with these problems, we pay and pray that police do. And then if and when something goes wrong, we put the police on trial? I doesn't make sense.

Does this matter? I think it does. Because when you read about a poor father with two murdered sons, you may think think he deserves your sympathy. Hell, maybe he does. Like, despite all the father's efforts, the mean streets of Baltimore done reached out and grabbed his children. But keep in mind it's this very man that make the streets of Baltimore so mean.

Who do you think shoots and kills and assaults people every year? The same criminals who sue police departments. Freddie Gray's death was tragic; it may even be criminal, but that doesn't mean he's a role model on par with Martin Luther King, Jr. Keith Davis Jr. is an armed criminal who shot at and was shot by police. Even the out-to-prosecute-cops State's Attorney agreed. That should be the end of the story. But it's not.

False narratives matter because we're not being honest. When we portray criminals as innocent victims and give violent criminals the moral high ground, we perpetuate the violence.


Friend of the Johnson family said...

You ignorant disrespectful BITCH!!!!!!! Clearly during your time as a police officer you never made detective. Your stupid ass is too dumb to realize that the Darrian Johnson that you are referring to in your flawed Maryland Case Search investigation is not Nedrick's son. That is someone else with the same name and a different birthday. Doddy was a good kid and should not be judged by the actions of anyone else. It is unfortunate that inner city youth are not afforded the same recreational activities that your ugly retarded ass kids of privilege are afforded. So what he rode dirt bikes instead of playing soccer or badminton or whatever it is that you think he should have been doing. He was a typical teenager that was caring and had a lot of people that cared for him.

Moskos said...

Perhaps. But I'm pretty sure it is the same person, since they all have the same listed address.

Friend of the Johnson family said...

No they did not have the same address listed. The address for the person listed on MD case search is Woodlea Ave. 21206...thats is not even the same side of town. Just admit that your facts are incorrect and you have been exposed for the lying piece of shit that you are!!!!

Moskos said...

I think you're right. My facts were wrong. My sincere apologies. I've correct the post.

Moskos said...

And my condolences for your loss.

Kyle said...

FoTJF, please chill. Jesus loves you and yes, NoBody deserves to die.

Prof, medias nowadays simply crap and possibly most "news" are generated by AI(e.g. Facebook feeds). "No news" is good news; All your posts are awesome at the same time.

Go Hillary! Let's make Trump broke again~

69goat said...

In MARYLAND CASE SEARCH under case number 813323017 they list an "alias" address on WOODLAND AVE in zip 21215. This is the same person! All of the entries in CASE SEARCH under the Woodlea Ave address are incorrect and are actually referring to this guy. The writer of the sunpaper story got the birthdates wrong somehow. PETER MOSKOS your facts were correct.

Kyle said...


Sorry... can't help it >.<

Friend of the Johnson family said...

He never lived on Woodland Ave either....Did you know him? Do you know his family? Obviously not. So STFU!!!!

Friend of the Johnson family said...

And his birthday was not Feb 1995 as shown in the MD case search. If that were true that would make him the older brother...he was the younger brother.

Moskos said...

I know. Got it. Thanks for the correction.

Moskos said...

It doesn't matter to me. It could be an alias. Or the it could have been entered by some person at CBIF who did a search and though the two may be the same person. It's not relevant to my greater point, that criminal behavior shouldn't be rationalized and normalized.

And there's this: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-dirtbike-accident-20160611-story.html

Unknown said...

You've made a few valid points, but in no way are you (or anybody else, for that manner) qualified to speak on the character of people you don't know. Maybe Mr. Johnson wasn't "father of the year" but he seems like a person who was involved in his sons' lives, and his criminal record doesn't alleviate him from the pain of losing two kids in one year. You people (yeah, I said it) bring up criminal history and behavior in these instances to dehumanize the victims. Because if they committed a crime or two in their lives, they deserved to die, right? Judge not -- unless you wish to be judged first...

Friend of the friend of the Johnson family said...

I totally agree with you Adrian. It seems the author of the judgemental article is indicating that the Johnson boys who happend to have criminal records, deserved to die. Did Mr. Johnson or his boys do something personal to you? I was so heated when I read this thinking what point were you trying to make. None the less, YOU get to go home to your children but unfortunately Mr. Johnson won't ever see his boys again and I'm sure your kids aren't perfect and have done things that you weren't proud of. He may not won the "father of the year" award but he loved his kids. Why are you so concerned with this man anyway? Digging into this family's past. Is this what you teach your students to do? Have any of you tried to help him or better yet offer a prayer for them. My guess is No, but you judge and criticize this family. Hasn't this man suffered enough? He is grieving. Here you are bringing up his faults, his kids faults to prove what point? This blog or whatever you want to call it is inconsiderate, cruel and quite frankly none of your business. Why don't you quit writing about how bad people's lives are and use your writing ability for something more positive. I challenge you to call out all your other fellow officers to start a program, go into the community and offer help to individuals who aren't as fortunate as you. Police officers need to redeem their image within the community anyway because you are not helping but hindering our community by publicizing things like this.

Kyle said...

Enjoy the song~

Moskos said...

If somebody comes of more than 30 times in a criminal records check including recent and current cases, yeah, my point is that we *should* be judging that character. Especially when the issues concern murder, rape, robbery, assault, and paternity.

My point is also that the Johnsons do not represent their neighbors, much less the "community." For shame anyone who thinks violent criminals are representative of Baltimore. The police will never "redeem their image" with criminals because the police job to stop and arrest criminals before they harm others.

Most people in Baltimore don't ride terrorizing motorcycles and ATVs, don't sell drugs, and don't carry and use illegal guns. If you think this behavior is representative of anything other than criminal class, for shame. If you think I criminals shouldn't be judged, than we will have to respectfully differ.

Another point is that people who stay out of trouble generally don't get murdered. So perhaps we should do better keeping kids out of trouble than accepting violence as fact of life. You don't get violence victims without violence perpetrators. And we should judge those perpetrators as bad people. That's why we have crimes in the first place: things you are not supposed to do.

And when we normalize crime and excuse it, or think people should be able to commit violence without consequences, we perpetuate the violence. And we end up blaming the very people -- including police -- who are trying to improve Baltimore and save lives.

Imagine a fluff piece about Al Capone, how sad he is when his henchmen are killed. Not mentioning that he's Al Friggin' Capone and calling out some of the harms he was personally brought into our community.

Right now I'm reading headlines about another mass shooting (not in Baltimore). I hope newspapers doesn't publish a story about the sorrow of Omar Mateen parents without mentioned what I could consider pertinent details about his lifestyle.

And I never said anybody deserves to die. I've clearly stated and believe the opposite. And I clearly said it really is tragic for any person to lose two of their sons to homicide.

bacchys said...

" Reading a fluff pieces like this in the papers, you might begin understand why cops hate "the media." Neighbors call 911 and complain about shitty and violent public drug dealing neighbors over the years and over the generations. Police respond day after day after day to the crimes of this family."

Even so, I don't get the hate for the media the cops have. The media is ever-willing to put out a police press release, especially when they need to slur someone. It wasn't long after Akai Gurley's death that we learned from Bratton and a dutiful NY press that he wasn't a choir boy, for example.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the hate for the media the cops have.

To work as a city cop in a busy area is to see a steady stream of credulity and laziness corrupt media accounts of incidents where you have first hand knowledge. Working police really would like the system to work better and the hatred of media in no small part comes from their role in helping drive discussions of law enforcement and criminal justice that are totally divorced from reality.

Moskos said...

Brief and well said, Campbell.

For one specific example, look into the case of Keith Davis Jr. and the shocking amount of sympathetic press reports, none of which are deserved. Imagine if you were a cop on scene and know what really happened. False (or self-censored) media accounts influences the public and juries. Guilty criminals walk.

After Gurley's death, Bratton called him a "totally innocent." I followed that case and don't remember any official attempt to smear Gurley.

You're linking this with Patrick Dorismond, which was a horrible police shooting. (Plain-clothes police go into bar asking who's selling drugs, Dorismond takes offense, fight starts, cops don't deescalate what they started, Dorismond gets shot and killed. Giuliani says Dorismond, "isn't a choir boy." Zing. Turns out Dorismond literally was a choir boy. Reverse Zing!) But it was 16 years ago.

But there is point in bringing up the facts of murder victims' criminality. If you know who shot you and why you got shot, it doesn't make it completely your fault, but it does make it less troubling and dangerous to the community. Those details matter to society and to neighbors. You can sleep better after your neighbor is a targeted victim as opposed to a random victim.

When the press reports "Man killed in East Baltimore, no known suspect, no known motive." That's not right. A more accurate headline would read: "Violent criminal shot and killed by known rival. Victim was standing on the corner and publicly dealing heroin and crack at the time he was killed." Those details matters. Because sometimes innocent people are killed just walking down the street, minding the own business. But it's rare.

Moskos said...

Or today the Sun reports: "A man has been arrested after allegedly shooting at officers Saturday night, Baltimore police said." If you must, put in "allegedly" or "Baltimore police said," but I strongly suspect the police didn't say "allegedly." It all makes it sounds dubious, like there's another side to this story.