Bennington, NE – Bennington Police Chief Lester “Les” Johnson died unexpectedly on Aug. 8, after having sustained severe head and spinal cord injuries during an off-duty fall in June.
Chief Johnson, 51, was working in a Waterloo storage unit when the fall occurred.
He slammed his head on the concrete, fracturing his eye socket, and also sustained a broken arm and a spinal cord injury, the Fremont Tribune reported.
“It looks like it’s going to be a long recovery for him,” Bennington Police Sergeant Tim Pittman said at the time. “Everybody in the community knows him, everybody is 100 percent behind him. He’s just a big influence to everybody in the community, and our department, we’re all missing him, and we’re just hoping for a speedy recovery.”
Chief Johnson’s community rallied behind him, raising funds to help offset some of his medical expenses, but he had not yet been able to return to duty.
Then things took a turn for the worst.
"I was informed early this morning that our Police Chief, Les Johnson, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last night,” Bennington Mayor Matt John told KETV on Aug. 8. “Chief Johnson started with Bennington as a part-time officer in 1992 and was elevated to Chief of Police in 2004 where he has served us ever since.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time,” John added. “We have asked that flags be lowered to half-staff in Bennington in honor and remembrance of our Chief.”
Chief Johnson, who was born in Tripoli, Libya, began his law enforcement career working for the State of Nebraska Corrections Department, according to his obituary.
After he graduated from the police academy, he worked as an officer in Waterloo before he joined the Bennington Police Department.
“He was generous, respectful, and stubborn,” his obituary read. “Les was always professional in his work and put the community first.”
"Les Johnson has always given everything to the community,” Sgt. Pittman, the department’s only other full-time officer, told WOWT.
Former Bennington Mayor Gordon Mueller agreed, and described Chief Johnson as an “extremely kind and thoughtful person,” the Omaha World-Herald reported.
“I never saw him mad or angry,” Mueller said of the six years he worked alongside the chief. “He was a steady hand, and you need that in a police chief.”
“We’re a family here, and with his passing, it hurts us to the core,” the former mayor said.
Chief Johnson leaves behind his wife, Alice Ann, and his daughters, Paxton and Hannah, as well as his sister, Doris.
He was laid to rest on Monday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Bennington Police Chief Lester “Les” Johnson, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.