Kelton L. Johnson, Jr. Sentenced to 30 Years

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

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FRANKLINTON – In a unanimous decision on September 28, 2023, a Washington Parish jury found Kelton L. Johnson, Jr., 23, guilty of Manslaughter. District Judge Alan A. Zaunbrecher subsequently handed down a 30-year prison sentence.

The case centers around an incident in April 2021, when multiple 9-1-1 calls were made to the Bogalusa Police Department reporting a shooting in front of a store on Sabine Street. Officers discovered Montrell Quinn, a resident of Bogalusa, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Despite being rushed to Our Lady of the Angels Hospital, Quinn ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

According to witnesses, the altercation began when Quinn approached Johnson’s vehicle, urging him to fight. Johnson claimed that Quinn retrieved a gun from his car and came to the passenger side of Johnson’s vehicle. In what he described as an act of self-defense, Johnson admitted to shooting Quinn. 

Notably, there was also an adult passenger and two young children in Johnson’s vehicle at the time of the incident, though the passenger fled shortly after the shooting. The firearm used by Johnson was recovered from his vehicle.

During the investigation, the police located the passenger, who had captured parts of the incident on video using his cell phone. Surveillance footage from the store also provided a comprehensive account of the incident. 

Community members informed the police that the victim and the defendant had an ongoing dispute and a known desire to fight.

The trial featured testimonies from the victim’s father, five Bogalusa Police officers, and the passenger who witnessed the shooting. 

In the passenger’s video, Johnson can be heard saying, “I’ll smoke him with that gun, free kill.” The passenger confirmed that he never saw Quinn with a gun in his hands. Additionally, another witness, who had known both the victim and the defendant for years, revealed that Johnson had sent him a message before the shooting, stating, “I’m gonna kill him.”

Prosecutors argued that while the victim initiated the physical confrontation, Johnson’s display of a firearm also made him an aggressor. They pointed to video surveillance evidence where Quinn can be heard urging Johnson to put down his weapon as proof that Quinn was aware of the gun. The defense maintained that Johnson acted in self-defense.

In their closing arguments, the prosecution relied on the legal concept known as the aggressor doctrine. They contended that as an aggressor, Johnson could not claim self-defense unless he withdrew from the conflict in a manner that Quinn would recognize. Assistant District Attorneys Jason Cuccia and Doug Freese emphasized that the evidence demonstrated Johnson’s failure to meet this requirement.

Key witnesses in the trial included Bogalusa Police Department detectives and officers, who provided essential insights into the aid provided to the victim, the retrieval of the victim’s firearm, and the collection of physical evidence. The testimony of Cheryl Swearingen, a firearms expert, and Dr. Christy Cunningham, the forensic pathologist, further bolstered the prosecution’s case.

This high-profile trial ultimately resulted in Johnson’s guilty verdict for Manslaughter. Given the severity of the crime, District Judge Alan A. Zaunbrecher sentenced Johnson to 30 years in prison.

Det. Lt. Casey Hidalgo, Lt. Mitchell Castleberry, and Officers Chris McClelland and Dillon Miller, formerly of the Bogalusa Police Department and now with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, were instrumental in the investigation.

About Timothy Holdiness

Timothy Holdiness is a native of Louisiana and has been published in several state, national and international publications. He has earned two undergraduate degrees in Biology, most recently from Northwestern State University in 2022. Notably, Holdiness was the 2014 Microsoft Office Specialist United States Champion in PowerPoint 2010.

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