In his 27 years with the Tacoma Police Department, Robert Johnson helped stop a prison escapee, catch a polar bear killer and celebrate the birthday of a 9-year-old girl brought home safely after she was abducted.
Johnson, from Puyallup, joined the department as a patrolman and eventually became the assistant chief before he retired in 1987.
He died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease July 13. He was 82.
Johnson and his partner caught Carl “Bingo” Brehan, a 51-year-old man who escaped from prison in Walla Walla and faced charges of armed robbery and auto theft. He had already done time for robbery and safecracking and was wanted by the FBI. The two officers stopped Brehan by ramming into his car at South 27th Street and Yakima Avenue.
“It was one of the biggest arrests at that time around, and that kind of put him in the spotlight a little bit,” former Tacoma Police Chief Richard Amundsen said. “He says ‘Put up your hands, Bingo, and if you move, I’ll blow your head off,’ or something to that effect. It went over our whole radio system at the time, and everybody heard what he said.”
Johnson also helped catch the suspected killer of Fuzzy the polar bear, a beloved member of Point Defiance Zoo who was fatally shot in 1964.
That arrest was important for the whole Johnson family: His son used to have lunch with the animal when he worked at the zoo.
Johnson also was involved with the case of Carolyn Lenti, an 8-year-old Fife girl who was abducted in 1972. She was brought home safely from where she was found north of Yakima, and Johnson helped her celebrate her ninth birthday soon thereafter.
“He was a good one,” Amundsen said.
Johnson is survived by children Robert and Christine, and was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothea.firstname.lastname@example.org