TARBORO – Paying the ultimate sacrifice is a risk law enforcement officers take every time they don the uniform and badge. However, a 24-year veteran officer was killed Tuesday not in the line of duty, but driving home.
Tarboro police Officer Charles Bryce Johnson, 46, was killed Tuesday morning when the Honda Odyssey van he was driving was hit head-on by an N.C. Department of Transportation excavator truck. N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper C. Purvis said the driver of the excavator, William Allen Harrell II, crossed the center line, but the investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed against the Macclesfield man.
“When I got on scene, the van was in the ditch with the D.O.T. vehicle basically attached to it,” Purvis said. “The top of the van had been peeled back.”
Johnson died at the scene. Harrell, 29, was shaken but not injured.
“We are asking that folks say a prayer and if they see another police officer to smile and say ‘thank you for your service,’” Tarboro police Sgt. Al Braxton said. “That was what Charles was all about: Service.”
Funeral arrangements for the husband and father of two young sons have not been announced.
“Charles was what I would call the perfect patrol officer,” Braxton said. “He loved what he did, and he did it well.”
Braxton said it was Johnson’s personality, though, that was truly memorable.
“I got him hooked on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and to this very day I’d tell him how much he reminded me of Sheldon,” Braxton said. “He always said he wouldn’t have been able to make it through college as a scientist, but his mannerisms were so like Sheldon’s. He had a very dry sense of humor that was funny as heck.
“Charles was hilarious. I know it is an old cliche, but he really was one-of-a-kind to me.”
Science wasn’t Johnson’s specialty, but ’80s music was, Braxton said.
“If you told him a song, he’d tell you what artist it was, what year it was made it and what album it was on,” Braxton recalled. “He was sharp as a tack with that.”
Johnson also was a devoted father, working part-time jobs to afford annual family vacations. Disney World was a favorite getaway for the Edgecombe County family.
“He loved those boys and he loved his wife,” Braxton said. “He was a great officer and a great guy. He really was.”
The veteran officer’s death is a loss felt hard by the department that hasn’t had an officer killed for nearly a century. Edgecombe County sheriff’s deputies answered calls Tuesday for the bereaved department.
A trust fund has been set up for the Johnson family at Providence Bank, 325 N. Main St. (PO Box 339) Tarboro, NC.