Hero Down: Kimberly Police Officer Nick O'Rear Murdered By Gunman During Pursuit
Jefferson County, AL – Kimberly Police Department Officer Nick O’Rear died in the line of duty after being shot by a fleeing felon on Tuesday night.
The incident began just after 10 p.m., when a Warrior police officer attempted to stop a vehicle, The Birmingham News reported.
The driver refused to pull over and led the officer on a pursuit down Interstate 65 South.
The gunman opened fire near mile marker 281, shortly after the Kimberly police officer joined the chase.
One Warrior resident said she heard as many as 12 shots fired in rapid succession.
The suspects initially escaped from the scene after the Kimberly police officer was hit by their gunfire, The Birmingham News reported.
A large police escort rushed the wounded officer to UAB Hospital in critical condition.
A blue alert was issued for the suspected shooter, 37-year-old Preston Chyenne Johnson, who was believed to be driving a Black 2003 BMW 325i.
Sometime after shooting the Kimberly police officer, Johnson crashed the BMW and called someone to come get him, The Birmingham News reported.
That person arrived in a GMC pickup.
Johnson and three other suspects were apprehended in Dora near Highway 78 just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, WBRC reported.
Police said that the gunman was carrying a large amount of cash on him when he was taken into custody.
The Alabama State Bureau of Investigation is handling the ongoing investigation into the shooting, The Birmingham News reported.
The events that led up to the Warrior police officer trying to pull Johnson over have not been released.
Johnson has been charged with capital murder, and is being held at the Jefferson County Jail without bond, WBRC reported on Wednesday morning.
He was previously convicted of drug possession in Morgan County in 2017 and served time in prison until July of 2018, according to The Birmingham News.
On Oct. 31, 2019, Cullman County deputies found him in possession of a stolen Corvette, as well as an AR-15, suboxone, 13 grams of methamphetamine, scales, and baggies.
Johnson was arrested on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of drugs with intent to distribute, and receiving stolen property, WBRC reported.
“We’re very familiar with the suspect,” Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry told The North Jefferson News. “Over the years we’ve arrested him multiple times.
“Our investigators worked tirelessly back in November alongside law enforcement in Winston County to arrest this suspect, when they recovered a stolen vehicle and firearms, along with methamphetamine,” Sheriff Gentry added.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said she has spoken with Officer O’Rear’s parents to personally offer her condolences for their loss.
“I am profoundly grieved to hear of the passing of the Kimberly police officer who was shot in the line of duty last night,” Gov. Ivey said in a statement. “The safety of our citizens and the rule of law is forefront on the minds of our officers who willingly risk their lives on behalf of ours. His sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Kimberly Mayor Bob Ellerbrock said that Officer O’Rear had been with the KPD for one year or less, and that his death was the first line-of-duty death in the history of the department, The Birmingham News reported.
“Everybody loved him,” Ellerbrock told the paper. “He was a tremendous asset to our community.”
Officer O’Rear is a father of two, with another baby on the way, the mayor said during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
He also leaves behind his parents and sister.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Kimberly Police Department Officer Nick O’Rear, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer Nick O’Rear, your life mattered.