In the mid-evening hours of June 27, 1944, an off-duty Berkeley police officer came upon a car sitting in the middle of the street. The motor was running and the radiator appeared to be boiling over. The officer approached the vehicle and saw that it was occupied by a man slumped over behind the steering wheel. He observed that the driver was alive but was having a difficult time breathing. Believing the man to have suffered a heart attack, the officer check further.
At that point he observed that the man in the car was holding a police badge, #89, in his left hand. The microphone to the radio was off to the side of his right hand. The Berkeley officer called for assistance and stood by the policeman, who he now knew to be Inspector John R. Johnston of the Oakland Police Department.
Johnston died while enroute to the hospital. He had been shot four times in the chest with a .45 caliber handgun. Reconstruction of the shooting offered the theory that Johnston was in the area looking for burglars. Apparently, he stopped an individual and called him over to the police vehicle. The subject approached the passenger side of the car and leaned his forehead against the top of the door. Then the subject shot Johnston and fled the area.
Johnston’s murderer was arrested within 48 hours, tried, and convicted.
Johnston joined the department in July 1928. He had been an inspector for three years prior to his death. He was survived by his wife and two children.