Sebastian County deputy Franke Clouatre couldn’t believe friend and colleague Terry Johnson wasn’t coming to work again.
Johnson, a Sebastian County deputy since 1996, died from injuries sustained in a one-car accident Saturday morning in Lavaca. He died in the intensive care unit at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith.
“It’s hard to believe that he’s not around,” Clouatre said. “It’s just like what the heck he’s not here anymore and it’s hard. It was hard to come to work this morning.”
Clouatre was one of many officers who looked up to Corporal Johnson in more ways than one.
“Terry Johnson was probably 6 feet 7 inches tall, probably close to three hundred pounds and to look at this guy especially on a traffic stop as the person being pulled over,” Clouatre said. “You might think to yourself, ‘oh my Lord this guy’s gonna tear my head off.’ He was the most soft spoken, nicest person that a person could meet.”
Clouatre said Johnson, whom Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck called a “gentle giant,” was a man every officer could always count on.
“If he was working with you anywhere in the county, if Lavaca, Barling, Greenwood calls for help, if he’s close and available, even if he’s far, he’s on his way,” Clouatre said.
Clouatre knew Johnson for five years and worked with him in law enforcement for the past two years. Saying goodbye has not been easy.
“The day it happened when I got notice from the hospital he had passed I came here and lowered the flag,” Clouatre said. “I went home put my black band on and I went to a few other places. Smaller towns in South Sebastian County lowered their flags, too.
“Everybody knew what it was for. They just already knew. Lowering this flag when I did, I lost it. Because I knew what I was doing it for and I;ve never done that before for anybody.”
Funeral arrangements have not been made for Johnson. His body was sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy.