Insurance benefits may not pay out to slain officer’s family

WEST MEMPHIS, AR. -- The family of the Forrest City police officer who was shot and killed by a stray bullet Saturday is now facing a financial struggle.

Officer Oliver Johnson Jr. was just 25 years old, his colleague Lt. Eric Varner told WREG.

But Lt. Varner said the fiancée and two daughters he left behind could be left with nothing because of the circumstances surrounding his death.

Johnson was killed in a drive-by shooting when bullets flew into his West Memphis apartment, but investigators say they don't believe he was the intended target.

"It’s like losing a brother," Lt. Varner said. "We’re a tight-knit, 35-person department, so everybody knows everybody, including the community. I mean, we’re not large. I think the entire community’s probably going to be devastated by this."

Lt. Varner and Johnson were close after having worked together for the last three years.

"Just a good guy," he said.

Fighting back tears, Lt. Varner told WREG Johnson had just landed his dream job with the West Memphis Police Department.

"That’s originally where he was from," he said. "He actually got hired on Wednesday."

Johnson had a special way of connecting with people, Lt. Varner recalls – something he admits even he couldn’t always do.

"Any type of divide – if I didn’t get along with a community member, I could usually call him and he would talk to them," Lt. Varner said. "I couldn’t have asked for a better officer."

But the two little girls and fiancée now forced to live without Johnson are facing another hurdle.

It turns out much of his insurance benefits from the department may not pay out because he wasn’t killed on the job, according to Lt. Varner.

"If it’s not shown through the investigation that he was actually targeted, then a lot of the benefits we get are only for line-of-duty, and that wouldn’t be listed as a line-of-duty death," he said.

Lt. Varner created a GoFundMe page in hopes that people will find it in their hearts to donate whatever they can.

"They’re desperately in need of help," he said. "Nothing’s going to make it right, but I think support is what they need right now."

West Memphis Police Captain Joe Baker wouldn't say Sunday if they have any suspects in the shooting, but tells us no one has been arrested or charged.

The funeral service for Officer Johnson will be held Saturday, May 12 at First Baptist Church in West Memphis beginning at 1 p.m.