Early Saturday morning, a male inmate at an Abilene, Texas, correctional institute murdered female corrections officer Mari Johnson, 55. An unresponsive Johnson was discovered by staff at approximately 5 a.m. at the maximum-security prison’s Roberson kitchen unit.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice Spokesman Jason Clark confirmed life-saving measures were enacted upon Officer Johnson prior to her being pronounced dead at Abilene’s Hendricks Medical Center.
The name of Johnson’s killer, along with the circumstances pursuant to her death, have not been made publicly available. Officials state those details would be released pending an investigation by the agency’s Office of Inspector General.
Mari Johnson was noted for her professionalism and dedication as a corrections officer. Johnson had served in her capacity with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice since 2009, according to documents.
Regarding the tragic death of Mari Johnson, Texas Governor Greg Abbott made the following statement, per CNN.
“The state of Texas mourns for Mari Johnson, a correctional officer who was senselessly murdered last night by an inmate. Texas will ensure the perpetrator receives swift justice, and TDCJ has been instructed to take all necessary measures to enhance the safety of their staff to prevent such tragedies.”
The Abilene, Texas, French M. Robertson Unit is roughly 140 miles west of Fort Worth and holds approximately 3,000 violent inmates, many of which are serving sentences for aggravated robbery, burglary, and sexual assault of a minor, according to Texas Tribune prison data.
Correctional Officer Mari Johnson’s death comes just a year following the last on-duty killing of a Texas corrections officer. Timothy Davison, 38, was killed by an inmate in July 2015 at the Telford Unit near Texarkana in northeast Texas. The inmate, Billy Joel Tracy, 38, already was serving a life prison term and now is awaiting trial for capital murder.
Dale Wainwright, chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, stated the loss of Mari Johnson was “difficult to put into words.” Wainwright further stated, “I ask the public to remember their acts of unselfishness, remember their many acts of courage, and remember the dedication and commitment demonstrated every day by correctional officers.”
In remembrance of Corrections Officer Mari Johnson, Texas Department of Criminal Justice executive Brad Livingston said the following in a statement.
“Correctional officers have one of the most difficult jobs in all of state government, protecting the public from dangerous individuals. Ms. Johnson made the ultimate sacrifice to keep this state safe. She will never be forgotten. We will see that the offender who committed this cowardly act is held accountable.”
Ms. Johnson’s death comes at a time when anti law-enforcement sentiment is high around the country. The state of Texas is perennially among American states with the highest law-enforcement death total. In 2014 alone, 11 officers were killed in the line of duty, per the Atlantic.
Mari Johnson’s unfortunate death comes just a week following the slayings of five Texas law enforcement officers. The state of Texas, along with the rest of the world mourns the loss of Mari Johnson, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith and others who have lost their lives recently.
[Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images]