April 24, 2015
Convicted Cop Killer Sentenced to 60 Years
Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that convicted cop killer Rasul McNeil-Thomas, 23, of Newark was sentenced to 60 years in New Jersey State Prison by the Honorable Robert Gardner, Judge of the Superior Court, for killing off-duty Newark Police Officer William Johnson, 45, of Newark.
He must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA)
Johnson, a 16-year veteran of the Newark Police Department, was ordering a slice of pizza, when he was shot on May 26, 2011.
On Feb. 24, an Essex County jury convicted McNeil-Thomas of aggravated manslaughter for the drive-by shooting at the Texas Fried Chicken and Pizza restaurant on Lyons Avenue in Newark.
“Today Officer Johnson’s family got justice. The sentence imposed by Judge Gardner is appropriate for someone who opened fire on a crowded restaurant, killing one person and wounding two others. This defendant displayed an absolute disregard for human life,’’ said Assistant Prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo, who tried the case with Assistant Magdalen Czykier.
“Officer Johnson embodied the best of the best. He was a longstanding member of the police department. He lived in the community and cared about the community. He knew the people in his neighborhood and they knew him,” said Assistant Prosecutor Czykier.
At trial the state argued that McNeil-Thomas unleashed a hail of bullets on the crowded restaurant aiming at a group of young women who had gotten into a physical fight with his mother and sister at their home earlier in the day. Following the fight, McNeil-Thomas and another man carjacked a Chevy Malibu and used it in the drive-by shooting.
Johnson, the father of two daughters, was shot at approximately 10 pm. He was pronounced dead the next morning at 3 a.m. McNeil-Thomas was also convicted of shooting two other people in the restaurant, a woman with a baby and a man. Their injuries were not fatal.
Following a four-week trial, McNeil-Thomas was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Marissa Tarry and Ashley Lamar, both of Newark. Lamar was shot during the drive-by shooting. Tarry was the intended target but was not shot. She saw the defendant approaching and ran for cover.
McNeil-Thomas was also found guilty of carjacking and conspiracy to commit a carjacking. The vehicle used in the drive-by shooting was carjacked from the driveway of a nearby house. The occupant of the car was sitting in the passenger seat of the idling vehicle when she was ordered out of the car by the defendant and an unidentified co-conspirator. She was not physically harmed.
McNeil-Thomas was acquitted of the more serious offense of murder. He was also found not guilty of endangering the welfare of a child, a charge stemming from the fact that there was a baby in a baby carriage at the time he opened fire on the restaurant.
The jury found McNeil-Thomas guilty of the following charges:
- Conspiracy to commit carjacking
- Conspiracy to commit murder
- Aggravated Manslaughter
- Two counts of unlawful possession of a handgun
- Possession of a firearm with a purpose to use it unlawfully against a person or property
- Two counts of attempted murder
- Two counts of aggravated assault
- Reckless aggravated assault