Sebastian County deputy Terry Johnson died of injuries he sustained in a single-car accident while on patrol Saturday morning in Lavaca.
Johnson was 48.
Johnson, a patrol corporal who had been with the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office since 1996, died at approximately 12:42 p.m. in the intensive care unit at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith, the Sheriff’s Office said in a release Saturday. The accident happened at approximately 4:20 a.m. on Highway 96 near a pizza restaurant in Lavaca.
Sebastian Co. Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said Johnson was a ideal deputy, the kind “every sheriff would want to have work for him.” Johnson had a strong work ethic, an immaculate patrol vehicle and never shied from the hazards of the job, Hollenbeck said.
His deputy’s death, Hollenbeck said, was every “chief’s personal nightmare.” Hollenbeck said everyone looked up to Johnson and not just because the deputy was 6’7″ but because the way he carried himself and led by example.
“He was a prince of a gentleman,” said fellow deputy Philip Pevehouse, who has been friends with Johnson for 17 years.
A witness called 911 to say he had heard a loud crash and saw Johnson’s patrol car on its side in a ditch. First responders had to use the “jaws of life” to remove Johnson from the vehicle.
Johnson’s death stunned the close-knit Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, as well as fellow law enforcement officers.
“There’s shock and they’re mourning, they’re grieving, they’re hurting, but also they’re coming together as brothers and sisters in law enforcement supporting each other,” Hollenbeck said.
Johnson’s body has been sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy. The state police is investigating the cause of the accident.
Johnson is survived by his wife, Carla. He was born and raised in LeFlore County just outside of Spiro.
The Sheriff’s Office said funeral arrangements are pending.