Investigation continues into motorist’s death

  • Tue Mar 20th, 2012 7:39pm
  • News

By Rikki King Herald Writer

OAK HARBOR — The death of an Anacortes dermatologist who was run over by a Washington State Patrol trooper after a car chase in February remains under investigation.

Donald R. Johnson, 53, died Feb. 12 after a short pursuit with a trooper near the Deception Pass bridge.

The trooper, Jason Knott, spotted Johnson speeding and attempted to pull him over, investigators said. Johnson sped off.

The trooper ended the pursuit a quarter- to a half-mile later, and Johnson kept going.

Johnson then went around a corner, crossed the center line and struck a rock wall, which sent his Toyota Celica spinning, detectives said. He was ejected from the car and thrown into the northbound lane.

Seconds later, the trooper came around the corner and ran over Johnson, who died at the scene.

The crash happened about 6 a.m. on Highway 20, about 300 feet south of the bridge.

The Washington State Patrol Major Accident Investigation Team has the case.

“We’re not done with the investigation,” detective Sgt. Jerry Cooper said Monday. “We’ve got a ways to go.”

Medical reports showed that Johnson died from the impact of hitting the rock wall and being thrown from his car, Cooper said. The medical experts believe Johnson already was dead when he was run over.

Lab test results showed that Johnson’s blood-alcohol level was at .14, almost double the legal limit. His death has been ruled an accident.

At this point in the investigation, it seems the trooper had no way of knowing the man was in the roadway, he said.

Johnson’s car had landed in the southbound lane, but all of the car’s lights were broken, making it difficult to see where the accident occurred, Cooper said.

“It’s dark,” Cooper said. “It’s a curve. It’s uphill.”

Detectives now are trying to determine the trooper’s exact speed, Cooper said. They also need to run field tests at the site under similar conditions.

The tests should help them determine how far the trooper may have been able to see ahead, Cooper said.

The trooper returned to work a few weeks after the crash, Cooper said. Investigators tested his patrol car for mechanical problems and found none.

Fatal crash investigations generally take at least a few months, and the major accident team has an unusually high number of cases going, Cooper said. It also takes time for test results and other reports to come back.

“We look at all the factors,” Cooper said.

Johnson had made headlines in the last few months for financial and legal troubles.

According to the Department of Health, he closed his dermatology offices because of financial issues in July. He also pleaded guilty just a few days before his death to domestic violence and violating a restraining order. His medical license was revoked in January.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com