Homicide

Man convicted of aggravated murder in shooting death of police officer who chased after him

A man accused of killing a police officer who chased him after a traffic stop and of trying to kill the officer's partner was found guilty of murder on Friday.

Thomas Johnson III had been charged with fatally shooting Officer Daryl Pierson on Sept. 3. A Monroe County Court jury convicted Johnson of the aggravated murder of Pierson and of the attempted aggravated murder of Pierson's partner, Michael DiPaola, who wounded him with a gunshot.

Surveillance video of the foot chase leading up to the fatal shooting of the officer was shown several times at Johnson's trial. The 4-minute video was a compilation from several surveillance cameras mounted on businesses in the Rochester neighborhood where Johnson ran from police after Pierson and DiPaola approached him in their patrol car.

During closing arguments Wednesday, District Attorney Sandra Doorley told jurors the video showed Johnson purposefully killed Pierson by placing a handgun under his chin and pulling the trigger. She said the video illustrates that Johnson, who was wanted for a parole violation, didn't intend to be caught by police.

Defense lawyer James Hinman said neither eyewitness testimony nor the video definitively proved Johnson intended to kill Pierson, who was 32 years old. He said Johnson may have been trying to discard the gun when he was grabbed by Pierson and the gun may have gone off accidentally.

Another shot from Johnson slightly wounded a bystander, authorities said.

Johnson, 39, could face life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing is set for the end of June.

Mayor Lovely Warren said justice was served for the Rochester Police Department, the city's residents and the Pierson family.

"This is a message to people who commit crimes in our city: We will prosecute you to fullest extent of the law and bring justice to those victims and those families," Warren said.