Processions in South Florida honor Sgt. La David Johnson’s sacrifice

U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s final farewell Saturday will include two processions in Broward County.  

At 8 a.m., authorities will escort Johnson’s body from the Fred Hunter’s Funeral Home at 6301 Taft St. in Hollywood, to the Christ the Rock Community Church at 1100 Stirling Rd., in Cooper City. 

The funeral will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a procession to the cemetery and interment. The Hollywood Fire Department will fly a U.S. flag at the entrance of the cemetery.

Johnson died while serving with Green Berets in Africa. Islamic militants ambushed them Oct. 4. The military located Johnson’s body in the desert of Niger Oct. 6, returned him to the Dover Air Force Oct. 7 and to Miami International Airport Oct. 17. The Pentagon is conducting an investigation on the attack that killed Johnson, 

FIRST PROCESSION

They will turn right and travel westbound on Taft Street. They will make a right at N. University Drive and travel northbound. They will make a left on Stirling Road and travel westbound and stop at the church’s entrance at 110th Avenue.

 

FINAL PROCESSION

Following the funeral service, the procession will travel from the church to Fred Hunter’s Hollywood Memorial Gardens for interment at the Hollywood Memorial Gardens at 3001 N. 72 St.. The procession will travel eastbound on Stirling Road. They will right on University Drive and travel southbound. They will turn left on Taft Street, then travel eastbound. They will make a left towards the cemetery. 

 

 

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Grieving family says final goodbye to Sgt. La David Johnson

Heartbreak surrounded the Christ the Rock Community Church again Saturday. The patriotic procession that followed the body of a beloved Miami Garden’s fallen hero from a funeral home in Hollywood to the church in Cooper City arrived about 9 a.m. 

When U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s body was inside a closed flag-covered casket, nothing could comfort his aunt Sharon Wright. She wore a military green U.S. Army T-shirt and sat on a bench outside weeping. 

“Everybody is just crying. Everyone loved him,” said Johnson’s sister Terkema McGriff, who described him as a “perfect big brother,” and said “he was very respectful, very helpful.”

After a public partial viewing Friday, the family returned to the church for the funeral service. The military escorted the body of the 25-year-old father — who was formerly known by thousands on social media as “Wheelie King 305” for his love of cycling on one wheel. 

The body of the fallen soldier with the U.S. team of “Bush Hogs” from the 3rd Special Forces Group arrived at Dover Air Force Base Oct. 7. Johnsonhad completed one deployment and was beginning another when he died in Africa. 

The morticians and staff at the Dover Air Force Base are trained to carefully wash the remnants of war away from the bodies of the fallen. They are trained to meticulously prepare them before they are placed in the casket. 

There have been many improvements made to honor the fallen at Dove Air Force Base after The Washington Post reported in 2011 that Air Force officials incinerated the remains of some U.S. soldiers and dumped them in a Virginia landfill.   

Experts from the FBI usually examine the fingerprints of the diseased. The mortuary has a database. DNA samples are compared and there is an autopsy. But when the injuries are severe and a reconstruction isn’t feasible, there is a different process.

The morticians wrap the remains. The staff pins the uniform on top. They shine the buttons and pay attention to every detail when they fold the flag over the casket. 

Despite all of the obstacles faced in Africa, the military returned Johnson’s remains to his family in Miami Tuesday.

His pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, his 6-year-old daughter Ah’leesya and his 2-year-old son La David Jr. waited for a Delta Airlines jet at Miami International Airport. His aunt Cowanda Jones-Johnson — who raised him as her own son — was inconsolable.

When Johnson’s mother, Samara Johnson, died in 1999, she and her husband, his paternal figure, were there for him when he was a 5-year-old boy in mourning. 

La David Johnson stayed out of trouble in a neighborhood where gang-related shootings are not uncommon. About the time his remains arrived to MIA Tuesday a shooting left a man wounded near Carol City High School, Johnson’s alma mater. On the day of his funeral, a shooting killed a 26-year-old man. 

Johnson graduated from high school in 2010 and worked at a Walmart in Pembroke Pines, where co-workers said he was known as “produce boy” or “Tee.” He was a gym and church regular. Like his uncle, whom he referred to as his dad, he chose not to smoke or drink. Friends said he also didn’t experiment with marijuana or drugs. He enjoyed fishing.

His relationship with Myeshia Manuel, whom he met when he was 6 and wed Aug. 22, 2014, was so meaningful to him that he eventually tattooed her name across his chest. His childhood sweetheart is set to deliver his third child in January.

His three children will likely grow up asking questions. His days serving along some of the most elite warriors in the world will likely make them proud. 

Johnson’s family, the Pentagon and the White House are waiting for the results of an ongoing investigation. His relatives want to know what happened to him during the 48 hours he was in an African desert. They want to know what his last moments were like.

Much of what happened remains secret. Johnson was serving with Green Berets when a group of Islamic militants ambushed them Oct. 4 in Niger, where ISIS affiliates like Boko Haram operate raising funds through a black market of gold from illegal mines in the area. 

What continues to trouble those who love Johnson is that he didn’t leave in the French helicopters during the first evacuation. The ambush also killed Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright. 

Dozens of questions are also torturing his friends:

“Did he die alone?”

“How did he end up so far away from where the ambush happened?”

“Did jihadist torture him and take him there?”

“Did he run there wounded?” 

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said Thursday U.S., French and Nigerien forces didn’t leave the battlefield until they recovered Johnson’s body. Nigerien forces found his body Oct. 6. The U.S. military returned his remains to the U.S. a day later.

About 10 days after his body arrived to Dover, the military delivered his body to Miami-Dade. Before Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, met his casket at MIA, President Donald Trump spoke to her in the car. He said Johnson knew what he had signed up for.

The words offended his family. 

Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, said Trump did the best he could during the phone call and his words were twisted.  Rep. Frederica Wilson, who was with the family when Trump called, disagreed. She was enraged and told reporters nationwide Trump was insensitive.

Kelly said Wilson was behaving like an “empty barrel” making noise. Wilson defended herself. The White House defended Kelly. The political conflict snowballed. But at the church Friday, no one cared about politics. Honoring the American hero was the priority.

Mike Pacheco, who wore a U.S. veteran hat, never got to meet Johnson. He watched the images of his widow mourning his death at MIA and he showed up to the church to pay his respects. He wants his family to know they are not alone.

Outside of the church, Pacheco leaned down, covered his face with one fist and cried by himself.  He said he wants the hero to rest in peace. 

Johnson’s casket made its way from the Fred Hunter’s Funeral Home, 6301 Taft St., in Hollywood to the church at 11000 Stirling Rd., in Cooper City, for a final service. The interment will be at the Hollywood Memorial Gardens, 3001 N. 72 St.

Police officers and deputies from the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office will escort the processions. The Hollywood Police Department and Hollywood Fire Rescue will also be honoring Johnson. 

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Man found unconscious in roadway after hit-and-run reported in Pompano Beach

Broward Sheriff’s Office Traffic Homicide Investigation detectives are investigating a fatal hit-and-run crash that was reported early Thursday in Pompano Beach. 

The hit-and-run was reported just before 12:45 a.m. at North Federal Highway and Northeast 10th Street.

Deputies said they found the victim lying in the roadway, unconscious with visible injuries to his head.

Pompano Beach Fire Rescue transported the victim to Broward Health North, where he died.

The victim’s identity has not been released as authorities work to notify his relatives.

Anyone with information or who witnessed the hit-and-run is asked to call Detective Donnard Huneke at 954-321-4842 or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.
 

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BSO deputy accused of sexually assaulting teenager

A Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy was arrested Thursday on accusations that he sexually assaulted a teenager, BSO confirmed on Friday.

Deputy Leon Andrae Campbell, 37, was arrested by Lauderhill police on charges of sexual assault on a victim who is 16 or 17, and promoting the sexual activity of a victim less than 16.

Campbell was released from jail Friday afternoon after posting $15,000 bail. He refused to speak with Local 10 News reporter Jeff Weinsier as he left the jail.  

BSO officials said Campbell, who works in the Pompano Beach area, has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

He has been employed with BSO since January 2008. 

No other details about his arrest were immediately released.

Watch Local 10 News or refresh this page for updates. 

 

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Lyft driver held without bond after being arrested on sexual battery charge

A Lyft driver accused of forcing a teenage boy to perform oral sex on him appeared in court Friday morning.

A Miami-Dade County judge ordered Julio Perez, 43, to be held without bond until he’s picked up and sent back to Broward County to face his charges.  

Lyft representatives said the company is “horrified” by the allegations and “stands ready to support” the victim and his family.

The company said the Perez was deactivated from its system as soon as the company found out about the allegations.

Police said Perez lured his way into a 16-year-old boy’s house in Davie after driving the teen home.

“Once inside, he forced the boy to perform oral sex on him,” Davie police Capt. Dale Engle said.

The boy told his mother what happened when she got home, remembering the Lyft driver’s name and other information from the app.

Police said Perez later confessed after he was tracked down in Hialeah on Wednesday.

Authorities said he thought the boy was younger.

“Mr. Perez indicated he thought the boy was 12 years old,” Engle said. 

Detectives said Lyft did not make it easy to find their driver. 

“Lyft was not as cooperative as other apps on releasing information on who the driver was. We were able to get it the next day,” Engle said. “Parents need to be aware that these services may be questionable and the drivers may be questionable.”

Lyft’s policy states that minors are to be accompanied by adults when hailing a ride.

Lyft says the driver was screened and passed a thorough background and sex offender check.

Police fear there may be other victims, so they’re encouraging parents to talk to their children and call police if they suspect they’ve been victimized.
  

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Public viewing for U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson scheduled Friday

Family and friends of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, and even some who didn’t know him, are preparing to say their final goodbyes to the nation’s hero, who was among four soldiers killed in Niger.

Johnson’s body was at Fred Hunter’s Funeral Home Friday in Hollywood where the body was transported to earlier this week.

The South Florida soldier who was killed in an ambush attack in Africa returned home on Tuesday.

The Delta flight carrying the 25-year-old Army sergeant’s body landed at Miami International Airport to a water cannon salute from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue as the plane taxied to the gate.

As his casket emerged from the cargo area of the plane draped in an American flag, his young, pregnant widow, Myeisha Johnson, laid herself over it, crying, with their young daughter by her side.

It has undoubtedly been a difficult week for La David Johnson’s grieving loved ones, leading up to this weekend when they invite the public to join them in saying their final goodbyes.

The public viewing will be held Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Christ the Rock Church in Cooper City.

His funeral service will be held Saturday at the same church from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Following the funeral, there will be a procession from the church back to the funeral home in Hollywood.

The Hollywood Fire Department will fly an American flag at the entrance to the cemetery as the procession makes its way in.

The U.S. has launched an investigation into the deadly ambush that killed Johnson and 3 other U.S. troops. 

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, called for a congressional investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.

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