Officer Ervin Johnston Down (Michigan)
Livonia Police Officer Ervin Johnston was one of those guys his fellow officers liked to see on the beat.
A man's sized man, Johnston once helped fellow officers box in a fleeing felon with his car on the freeway before the suspect got out, intent on doing some harm.
"Ervin took this guy to the ground," said Sgt. Pat Moug. "Everyone watched that video over and over again. It was like a sigh of relief when Ervin Johnston showed up."
Johnston, an eight-year veteran of the Livonia police department and a husband and father of three, died Friday night while on patrol, apparently of natural causes.
Johnston was 45 years old and family members told police he had just had a physical several weeks earlier. The U.S. Army veteran was a resident of Southfield. Before coming to the Livonia department, he worked eight years with the Homewood Police Department in Alabama. Police say he moved here to be near family when his mother was ill.
Johnston worked the 3-11 p.m. afternoon shift and enjoyed patrolling the busy southeast section of the city, according to Police Chief Robert Stevenson. He called the residents in the area "my people" and was well-known by security staff at Wal-Mart. It was a security guard there who found him unresponsive in his patrol car about 7:45 p.m., police said.
Stevenson called Johnston "a great officer," who would laugh about his having a similar name to the Michigan State and Los Angeles Lakers basketball star. "A lot of people around here called him Magic the first couple years," Stevenson said.
"Ervin was one of those guys that always had a smile on his face," Moug said. "And I'm not just saying this, he was one of those guys who never said a bad word about anyone."
Johnston never prompted any citizen complaints either, Stevenson said. "Of course when you're that big, you don't ... but he really had the personality for that."
Moug said he recently asked Johnston about his goals, whether he would test to become a sergeant, but the officer liked his steady shift and being able to be home with his children. "His main concern was his kids," Moug said.
Along with his wife and children, Johnston is survived by his mother and siblings. Funeral arrangements were unavailable as of Saturday at noon.
The officer's death comes almost a year to the day of the death of Sgt. Tony Cracchiolo, a 31-year-veteran who died Jan. 17, 2006, of a heart attack while at home.
In the city's history, two other police officers died while on active duty. Officer Sidney Dethloff died of injuries suffered when a car veered well off Seven Mile Road and hit him in 1952. Officer James Kelley died of a heart attack in 1992 while training with the department's Special Weapons and Tactics unit.