Shooter impersonated cop, carried gun case at Tacoma Mall two weeks prior to shooting

Bulletin sent to all Pierce County law enforcement agencies regarding Bruce R. Johnson II.
Bulletin sent to all Pierce County law enforcement agencies regarding Bruce R. Johnson II. Courtesy Tacoma Police Department

The man who shot and killed a Tacoma police officer Wednesday impersonated a law enforcement officer in the Tacoma Mall two weeks earlier.

Bruce Johnson II, 38, was seen walking through the mall Nov. 15 in a hat reading “sheriff” and carrying what appeared to be a soft rifle case over his shoulder. He was wearing handcuffs on his belt.

It’s unknown whether a gun was inside the case.

Shortly after security officers at the mall reported the ensuing confrontation, Tacoma police sent out a bulletin to all Pierce County law enforcement agencies, notifying them that Johnson was impersonating an officer.

“We put out the information because it’s a law enforcement sensitive issue,” police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said Friday.

A guest services manager spotted Johnson in the mall about 1:05 p.m. and notified security, who stopped Johnson to talk.

“The security supervisor informed Mr. Johnson to leave the mall as his hostile behavior was unacceptable,” according to the bulletin.

Johnson refused to leave and police were summoned.

According to the bulletin, he then bought a cup of coffee and left the mall, grabbing his crotch and yelling, “See, see what they are doing to me?” as he went.

Security officers followed Johnson into the parking lot, jotting down a description of his vehicle and its license plate.

A police officer stopped Johnson on Steele Street. An unloaded 20- gauge shotgun was sitting in the front seat, records show. He told police he was heading to the gun range and was afraid to leave his gun in the car for fear it would be stolen.

When the officer asked him why he was impersonating a police officer, “Johnson stated that he liked police and wanted essentially to fit in with law enforcement,” the bulletin said.

Johnson was banned from the mall for life.

On Wednesday, he fatally shot Tacoma police officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez during a domestic dispute at Johnson’s East Side home. A sheriff’s SWAT team member killed Johnson with a single shot through a window after an 11-hour standoff.

Police were unaware during most of the standoff that the man in the house was Johnson and that they’d received an “officer safety” bulletin about him weeks ago.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653

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