In this circa 1942 photo of the force, "Star" Johnson is in the middle of three black officers in the fourth row. To his right is his partner, Joe Davis. On the left is Joe Island. In uniform in the second row, behind and to the right of the man in suit and fedora, is Detective "Frenchy" Navarre.
Earlier this year when a Phoenix Police detective was killed in a shootout, the Arizona Republic ran a sidebar listing all the officers killed in the line of duty. The information came from a list kept by the police department. The trouble is that the list is incomplete. It omits the in-the-line-of-duty murder of David Lee "Star" Johnson in 1944.
He was killed by another cop.
I've told an abbreviated version of this event in another column, how it was a searing experience for a small but ambitious city. I've even used elements of it in my fiction. In this column, I want to tell the entire story based on the best research available. This true tale involves corruption, racism, betrayal and revenge in young Phoenix. It also is a powerful reminder that PPD should officially honor Johnson as an officer lost in the line of duty.