Man killed by St. Paul police had history of violent domestic convictions

Minnesota court records show Johnson had 22 convictions at the time of his death, including eight felonies in six years — all since the age of 18.

St. Paul domestic

Howard Peter Johnson, 24, was shot and killed by St. Paul police on Monday, Dec. 5 after police responded to a report of a domestic assault where a woman told 911 that she had been hit by a male who was also armed with a gun.

The male was identified over dispatch at the time as Johnson, and the dispatcher also told police that Johnson had an active $25,000 bond warrant for domestic assault.

Johnson had a history of convictions on domestic-related crimes as well as other violent crimes. Minnesota court records show Johnson had 22 convictions at the time of his death, including eight felonies in six years — all since the age of 18.

Johnson had three felony convictions on domestic assault or abuse and three convictions on violating domestic abuse no-contact orders. Additionally, Johnson had at least four convictions on fleeing police and one for robbery.

The shooting

Police were dispatched Monday about 6:10 p.m. to the area of Hudson Road and Earl Street, and a search perimeter for the suspect ensued. Police eventually found the woman who called 911 nearby in a vehicle. Police said she told them that Johnson had called her and said he saw police in the area. An officer aired that Johnson knew they were looking for him, according to dispatch audio.

Further dispatch audio captured the final moments of the search up to and including the shooting. Police were tracking Johnson through the nearby neighborhood and thought at one point that he may have broken into a residence. Police then saw the suspect fleeing with a gun in his hand. One officer aired that the suspect was pointing the gun at a vehicle and trying to carjack someone just before police aired that shots had been fired.

Police released a statement following the shooting which named the officer involved as Sgt. Cody Blanshan, who has been a law enforcement officer for 10 years. Blanshan was placed on standard administrative leave as the investigation continues by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The statement said that Johnson had engaged in an exchange of gunfire with Blanshan during which Johnson was struck. He fell to the ground and dropped his gun. A .45 caliber Glock pistol and three .45 caliber bullet casings were recovered at the scene. Police also recovered 10 9mm casings which they said were consistent with Blanshan’s department handgun fired during the incident.

Police on Thursday released some of the police bodycam and other surveillance video from the time of the shooting.

shooting
The video released by police shows a muzzle flash coming from Johnson’s gun. (St. Paul Police Department)

The video is from Sgt. Blanshan’s camera and shows an exchange of gunfire between himself and Johnson, the police department said in a news release.

The police department also released still images from the shooting, one showing Johnson pointing a handgun at Blanshan and another showing a muzzle flash coming from Johnson’s gun.

Criminal history

Johnson had been wanted since September on the felony domestic assault warrant for failure to appear in court on a case that had been charged in March. Charges in that case say that Johnson assaulted his girlfriend while she was the driver of a vehicle, and he was the passenger. The woman suffered swelling and a cut over her eye.

Johnson was convicted in two domestic assault cases in 2021. In one case, the victim told police the two had children in common, and Johnson had come to her house to help with the car. They drove around and got into an argument during which Johnson struck her in the face several times. He pinned her head and neck to the center console of the vehicle, and at one point pushed her from the vehicle while it was moving.

In yet another felony domestic assault case involving a different victim, Johnson was convicted in July 2021 and was sentenced to 13 months in prison. Charges in that case say Johnson became upset when the woman was watching a Snapchat video and a subscription link appeared that showed another male. Johnson thought it was one of her friends and began calling her names. He said he should smack her and kill her and then he spit on her. The two got into a vehicle with their two children when Johnson continued to call her names, punched her twice and grabbed her hair. The victim was able to open the vehicle door and call to another person for help who called 911.

President Mark Ross of the St. Paul Police Federation held a press conference on Friday commending Blanshan for his actions and said they were “reasonable and justified.” Ross said that Blanshan used his training to act and save lives, including his own.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.

 

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.