Christopher Johnson, Pennsylvania


Update: Monday, March 21, 2016 11:52 am EDT

Christopher Lynn Johnson was scheduled to be executed at 7 pm EDT, on Friday, March 18, 2016, at the State Correctional Institute Rockview, in Rockview, Pennsylvania. His execution has been stayed. Thirty-two-year-old Christopher is convicted of murdering 31-year-old David L. Grove, a Wildlife Conservation Officer, on November 11, 2010, near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Christopher has spent the last four years of his life on Pennsylvania’s death row.

Christopher's execution has been stayed by the US District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The reason for his stay has not been stated.

Christopher was married and had a young daughter at the time of the murder. Multiple relatives testified that Christopher was a good and caring father.

On November 11, 2010, Officer David Grove, a Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, responded to an emergency call about an individual “spotlighting” across from the Gettysburg battlefield. At 10:35 pm, Officer Grove transmitted a license plate number of a pick-up truck he had stopped. It was registered to Christopher Johnson.

At 10:37 pm, Officer Grove reported that Johnson and a passenger, later identified as 19-year-old Ryan Laumann, had exited the vehicle and that he was awaiting further assistance before proceeding. Officer Daniel Barbagello arrived to assist Officer Grove around 10:39 pm. Officer Grove had already been shot three times. A shot to the back of the neck was fatal.


Laumann later testified that when had arrived home from work earlier in the evening, Johnson was waiting for him, slightly inebriated. With Johnson driving, the two went to Johnson’s nearby hunting cabin. Upon arrival, the two had a few beers and shot Laumann’s compound bow and Johnson’s crossbow and .22 long rifle with a scope to make sure they were still sighted correctly.


The two men then went to a nearby tree stand. They continued drinking while in the tree stand, with Laumann estimating that Johnson drank approximately 7 beers in the tree stand. At dark, the men briefly returned to the cabin. They then left, to go spotlighting for deer at a nearby orchard, before moving on to a different area. Johnson stopped the truck when he spotted a doe. Johnson kept the spotlight on the doe, while Laumann shot it with his compound bow. They continue driving, spotting another deer a short time later. Laumann shot but missed with the rifle. Johnson grabbed the rifle and shot twice at the deer. They left both deer to retrieve later.


As they drove off, they observed a vehicle coming up behind them. This vehicle belonged to Officer Grove. According to Laumann, Johnson pulled over as soon as he was safety able after observing Officer Grove activating his overhead lights. Johnson made the comment to Laumann that he was not “going back to jail.” Johnson then complied with the instruction given by Officer Grove, through the loudspeaker on his vehicle, on how Johnson was to exit his vehicle. Upon learning there was a passenger in the vehicle, Officer Grove gave the same instructions to Laumann.


Officer Grove, while remaining in his vehicle asked if there were any weapons in the car. Johnson told Officer Grove that there were weapons in the back seat. He also, quietly, informed Laumann that he had a .45 on him. Officer Grove ordered Johnson to back up towards his patrol car. Johnson complied, until Officer Grove began placing the handcuffs on him. Johnson then began to ask why, and upon receiving no answer, he fought back. Laumann testified that during the struggle, Officer Grove issued several commands. Laumann then heard gunshots, prompting him to drop to the ground. When he next looked, he saw Johnson firing at least three shots in rapid succession. Laumann saw Officer Grove lying near the rear of the patrol vehicle.


Johnson ran back to his vehicle, grabbed the keys, and, with Laumann, sped away from the crime scene. Laumann convinced Johnson to let him out of the vehicle a short time later. When police visited Laumann’s house later that evening, he denied knowledge of the incident. The following morning, he recanted his statement and gave an account of events to police, which omitted the shooting and killing of two deer. He finally informed the police about the deer a few weeks before Johnson’s trial.


Johnson was arrested the following day near his hunting cabin. After being read his Miranda rights, Johnson agreed to talk to the police. When the police asked if Johnson was aware that he shot a police officer, Johnson replied that he “didn’t shoot a police officer. He was just a game warden.” Johnson then attempted to clarify that he was only noting the distinction. Johnson eventually confessed to the police.


Christopher Johnson’s execution will likely be stayed. On Friday, February 13, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on executions in the state, until he receives and reviews a report on capital punishment in the state, a report which was ordered in 2011. In his announcement, he called the death penalty in Pennsylvania a "flawed system," "ineffective," "unjust," and "expensive." The governor will continue to issue stay of executions until all problems in the report are satisfactorily addressed. Read more about the announcement here.


Due to Governor’s Wolf’s decision, he has refused to sign any execution warrants. Christopher’s notice of execution was issued by Department of Corrections Secretary John Wentzel, which is in accordance with state law. State law requires the corrections secretary to issue an execution notice if the governor does not sign a warrant within a specific time frame.


Please pray for peace and healing for the family of David Grove. Please pray for strength for the family of Christopher. Please pray that if Christopher is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Christopher may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



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