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California Highway Patrol officer is held in husband's slaying

Nearly two years ago, Officer Tomiekia Johnson said she killed her husband, Marcus Lemons, in self-defense. The L.A. County district attorney's office has filed murder charges against her.

January 12, 2011|By Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times

On a Saturday night nearly two years ago, California Highway Patrol Officer Tomiekia Johnson pulled out a handgun and fatally shot her husband in the head on an offramp of the 91 Freeway in Compton.

She then drove less than a mile to the home of her parents, who called authorities to report the killing. Johnson told detectives she acted in self-defense after her husband, barber Marcus Lemons, physically abused her during a heated argument.

Lemons' family and colleagues at the Compton barbershop where he worked were immediately skeptical of Johnson's story, describing Lemons as a peaceful man who would never hit his wife. But detectives had little to go on, and the case quickly faded from the headlines.

Then on Tuesday, homicide detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department went to a CHP office in Los Angeles and arrested Johnson at the desk where she had been assigned since the slaying. The same morning, prosecutors charged Johnson with Lemons' slaying.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Natalie Adomian said Johnson "intentionally shot her husband," and the killing had nothing to do with self-defense.

"She didn't call 911, her parents did," Adomian added.

For more than a year, sheriff's investigators reconstructed the events that led to 31-year-old Lemons' killing.

The couple had left a T.G.I. Friday's in Compton shortly before the shooting. At some point, the couple stopped the car.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that Johnson was outside the car when she fired the shot.

The sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because the case was ongoing, said Johnson later told detective Lemons had physically abused her in the car. The sources, however, said detectives allege that forensic information gathered at the scene contradicts some parts of her account.

Marcus Lemons' brother, Alonzo Lemons, said he was surprised but grateful when detectives told him that Johnson had been arrested.

"I was kind of in shock. It has been almost two years now," he said. "It won't bring him back. It was sad anyway it goes. They have a child together. Now that child is without a mother and a father."

The couple had met at a Lakewood bowling alley, where Marcus Lemons was a local celebrity who had won high-profile amateur bowling tournaments. In March 2008, he won an Amateur Bowlers Tour tournament, thanking his wife and his children for love and support and his mother for watching the kids. When asked if he had any special plans for his winnings, Lemons said he would give the check to his wife.

Jane Robison, a district attorney's office spokeswoman, said it took nearly two years to file the case because an extensive probe took more than a year, and then prosecutors did a further extensive review and more investigation before filing the charges.

Johnson was being held in lieu of $2-million bail Tuesday. CHP officials said that they immediately removed the veteran officer from contact with the public when they learned last year that she was the subject of a criminal investigation into the death of her husband.

Johnson, 31, has been employed with the department since 2002, said CHP Sgt. Denise Joslin.

"These are very serious allegations and are being treated accordingly by CHP management," Joslin said. "The department will not tolerate actions by any of its employees that violate the public trust and bring discredit to the organization, its time-honored traditions and its institutional values."

The Sheriff's Department did not release a booking photo of Johnson.

richard.winton@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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