Police still hope to charge killer in drug deal

At least for now, key witnesses won't testify in slaying of Jeffrey Johnson

It's been almost four years since the case against three suspects fell apart in the shooting death of 20-year-old Mountain View resident Jeffrey Johnson, but authorities remain hopeful that someone will eventually step forward to name the killer.

Johnson was shot Feb. 7, 2008 in the midst of a drug deal with three suspects in the Happi House parking lot at El Camino Real and Ehrhorn Avenue, police say. Several of his friends were with Johnson, including one who was sitting next to him when he was shot while attempting to drive away in his Ford Explorer. In a different car, another person was shot in the leg during a car chase through Old Mountain View. Police believe there may be several witnesses who could potentially put the killer behind bars, but perhaps out of fear, none have talked, even when offered immunity.

"I think we had a decent idea who did it, we just can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt," said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Ray Mendoza. "We know who was there and who was involved and we just need those people to come forward. That's what's frustrating. You hope people come forward and do the right thing. And hopefully one day they will."

Everyone present during the shooting was a teenager at the time. Recent arrests in another local murder case, the 2005 killing of Alex Fernandez, are a reminder that when teenagers become adults they are more likely to speak up about a murder.

"In the Fernandez case, we did find people who were more willing to give us information because time went by, they grew up or were no longer involved in gang activity," said police spokeswoman Liz Wylie. "Someone's guilty conscious can weigh on them. For a decent person it tends to sit on your shoulders. It doesn't go away as time goes on. In fact it can get worse."

Eventually people also become less afraid to talk. "With the passage of time goes the passage of fear," Mendoza said. People who are involved may tell someone else about their involvement, and testimony from such people "is always helpful," Mendoza said.

The police arrested two suspects in the case in 2008, but both were released due to lack of evidence. Sunnyvale resident Nathan Talarico, who apparently fled after the shooting, was arrested in Mobile, Ala. Mountain View resident Jose Alfredo Romero was arrested later in Mountain View. Authorities would not name the suspected killer.

Mendoza said he could have tried to prosecute Talarico, but decided to hold off in hopes of building a better case.

Exactly why Johnson was shot remains a mystery. Mendoza said he's waiting for someone to "tell us exactly what happened and why."

"In a case like this I would love to give closure to the family and hold who did this responsible," Mendoza said. "Jeffrey was a young man, he didn't deserve to die. I'm sure the family thinks about it all the time. Jeffrey is not forgotten."

Mendoza says he will never forget the case.

"This is the only homicide I've had that I haven't been able to close out and I've been at my job 26 years."

"I think we have some evidence that we can corroborate if someone comes forward," Mendoza said. "I'm hopeful it will happen."

Anyone with information about the case can reach Mountain View police at (650) 903-6344.


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Posted by McGruff
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2011 at 12:43 pm

A cash reward held in trust should also come with a free standing offer of immunity. If someone wants to get out of gang life, having a little nest egg from which to relocate/start a new life would be much more tempting.
I applaud the decision to wait on a charge. Once a not guilty verdict is found, there's no chance for a retrial. Better to let this scum bag worry each day, knowing his days are numbered.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Mackey
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Drugs are bad mmm-kay? Kids, you shouldn't do drugs, mmm-kay?

Like this comment
Posted by ma
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I believe a $10,000 reward was offered but you should check that out with the MVPD. Hopefully someone will want to clear their conscience and come forward.

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Posted by The Eye
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm

The Eye is a registered user.

Never going to happen. I'm sure the suspect is laughing at the MVPD, knowing they can't make it stick, and probably never will. It's just as well that they won't mention the suspect's name, because if "all roads lead to Rome", and it's pretty obvious who the killer is, then I'm sure that someone would just finish the job, and clean this scumbag out of the gene pool. Sooner or later, that may happen, as well. Wait and see...

Like this comment
Posted by Motivation
a resident of Castro City
on Sep 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm

So if MVPD found out who did it for the 2005 case. Why cant they solve this one. I think they need to do a better job instead of just busting people for small things.

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Posted by wow
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:22 am

Ok the MVPD cant solve crimes but they will pull me over with 3 cop cars carrying 5 cops total at night for having a air freshener hanging from my rear view mirror like im a murderer. Only to let me go after harassing me for 30min to make sure I had a clean record. And they say they need more cops? Really? seems like every time i get pulled over there are at least 3 cops to deal with me only to let me go after they find out I have a clean record. Go figure? My tax dollars at work.

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Posted by ANNA
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Are you an African American, wow? Used to happen to my daughter everytime she came into Mountain View. Happened right in front of my house one day so i went out to confront the officer with his dog to ask him what the problem was. He walked away , said no problem , got in his car and left. He knew I wasnt going to let him harass my daughter for no reason.

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Posted by Dont be ignorant
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Annonymese, youre an idiot and you dont know what youre talking about!! And there are people that know exactly what happened. Jeff and his family didnt deserve this and there needs to be some justice for them. Im waiting and hoping for the day that they charge the people that did this, or they at least get some street justice. R.I.P. Jeff

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Posted by Educated
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 11, 2011 at 10:28 am

Annonymese....Your a Joke. Show some class, I'm a minotity myself. This is not a race issue. If you knew Jeff then you would know that he is not some rich white kid trying to be hood. Your comment makes me laugh more than it angers me, because your so ignorant.

Like this comment
Posted by Natalie
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Jeff was a great friend and has been sorely missed. His funeral was absolutely packed with people who loved him and his death has been a living nightmare for anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. I have faith that justice will be served...I don't care how long it takes. I will be waiting.

Like this comment
Posted by Vita
a resident of Castro City
on Sep 15, 2011 at 12:17 am

The voice needs a like button like Facebook.

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Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Sep 15, 2011 at 11:26 am

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

@ Vita: Thanks for the suggestion. While our site doesn't have a "like" button, the Voice does have a Facebook page, and we love to get liked on Facebook.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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