Accused shooter of Pelham Police officer pleads not guilty

Published 1:39 pm Thursday, March 4, 2010

The man charged with fatally shooting Pelham Police officer Philip Davis pled not guilty March 4 during an arraignment in front of Judge Michael Joiner.

Bart Wayne Johnson, 29, of Kimberly, is charged with two counts of capital murder, one count for intentionally killing an on-duty police officer and one count for intentionally causing a death by shooting from an occupied vehicle.

As Johnson entered the courtroom Thursday, he smiled at his wife, parents and brother, a Trussville Police officer who was also arrested after the shooting, but has since been cleared of any charges.

Johnson’s attorney, Charles Salvagio, entered the not guilty plea for his client.

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy, along with several other city and law enforcement officials, was present for the arraignment and said he was not surprised by Johnson’s plea.

“It didn’t surprise me at all,” Murphy said. “He had two choices: guilty or not guilty. It will all come out right.”

Davis’ wife, Paula, and her parents were also all present for the arraignment, and Murphy said that both families must continue to heal.

“I feel sorry for (Johnson’s) family,” Murphy said. “There’s two families hurting.”

As Johnson exited the courtroom, he whispered “I love you” to his wife.

A pretrial has been set for May 12 at 1:30 p.m. in front of Joiner.

A grand jury handed down the two-count indictment Dec. 4, 2009, and Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens announced that day the state would seek the death penalty.

The state contends Johnson shot and killed Davis following a traffic stop in a construction zone Dec. 3, 2009, at approximately 11:50 p.m. on Interstate 65.

The incident was captured by a dash camera in Davis’ cruiser, and Owens said the state has a clear depiction of the incident it could present to a jury.

“The dash camera in this case portrays the event clearly,” Owens said. “It leaves very little doubt about what happened.”

Davis became the first Pelham Police officer killed in the line of duty in the city’s 45-year history.

Johnson remains in the Shelby County Jail and is being held without bond.

Salvagio asked Joiner about setting a bond for his client, and Joiner said that matter would be addressed at the pretrial.