Police killer's kin gets 20-year term in bank robbery Terrence Johnson, his brother, killed himself after they were surrounded

October 15, 1997|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

The older brother of convicted police killer Terrence Johnson was sentenced to 20 years yesterday for his role in their botched February robbery of an Aberdeen bank.

Darryl B. Johnson, 36, of South Baltimore had pleaded guilty to robbery, first-degree assault and a handgun violation for the holdup in which the younger Johnson killed himself with a gunshot to the head after police surrounded the pair.

At yesterday's hearing, victims, relatives and Johnson spoke emotionally about the aftermath of the robbery at a NationsBank branch in Beards Hill Plaza. Johnson stood before Harford County Circuit Judge Thomas E. Marshall and, in a breaking voice, apologized for his part in the crime.

"I don't know how the people at the bank feel, but I feel very low, ashamed and embarrassed," Johnson said haltingly as members of his family audibly choked back tears. "That's just not me. I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

Under a plea agreement, Johnson must serve at least 10 years before he is eligible for parole; Marshall ruled that he must serve five years of supervised probation after his release.

Marshall's ruling ended a case that had attracted widespread media attention because of the involvement of Terrence Johnson, 34, of Washington.

Terrence Johnson served almost 17 years for the slayings of two Prince George's County police officers, a crime that triggered racial tension because Johnson, who was black, alleged that the white officers were beating him during questioning and that he shot in self-defense.

He was paroled amid controversy in 1995, and became a law student at the University of the District of Columbia.

In court yesterday, family members said the media portrayed Terrence Johnson as something he was not -- a hero -- and said Darryl Johnson had a drug and alcohol problem that may have made him susceptible to his brother's influence.

"[The victims] were blessed that no one was hurt, and the reason no one was hurt was because of my son Darryl," said the pair's mother, Helen Johnson. She apologized for her sons' involvement and said her family was suffering just as the robbery victims were.

Johnson, who has been held at Harford County Detention Center, sat silently as several employees of the NationsBank branch read victim impact statements.

"The events of that day have left fears that will never end and scars that will never heal. These two men not only robbed the bank, they also robbed me of my basic trust, confidence and feeling of security."

Hope Russell,an employee of NationsBank

Elizabeth Clayson, a consumer banker, tearfully relived details of the robbery, including having a gun pressed to her cheek.

"When I leave my house to go to work in the morning, I wonder if I will be alive to return that evening," she said. "I don't think I will ever forget or get over the incident."

Bank employee Hope Russell said she no longer feels safe at work.

"The events of that day have left fears that will never end and scars that will never heal," Russell said. "These two men not only robbed the bank, they also robbed me of my basic trust, confidence and feeling of security."

State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, who had sought a 50-year sentence with 20 years suspended, said he felt guidelines for the sentencing were not strict enough.

Terrence Johnson appeared to have turned his life around after being paroled, entering law school and working as a paralegal. But he withdrew from school amid financial pressures that friends said might have prompted him to rob the bank.

In a confession to police, the older Johnson said his brother masterminded the crime, supplying the gun and telling him what to wear.

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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