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Boone County deputy shooting ruled justified in deadly February chase

blain johnson shooting
Columbia police and Boone County sheriff's deputies investigate after a deputy shot and killed Blain Johnson near the corner of Rangeline and Richaldn Roads on Feb. 13, 2022.


A special prosecutor declined to charge a Boone County sheriff's deputy that shot and killed a man in February.

Audrain County prosecutor Jacob Shellabarger called Deputy Steven Verble's actions in killing 37-year-old Blain Johnson "appropriate, proportional, swift and thorough to attempt to avoid Mr. Johnson’s escalation and danger to life, body and health of citizens and officers alike" in an April 19 letter. Shellbarger was appointed to review the case after former Boone County prosecutor Dan Knight requested an outside attorney review the case.

Verble shot Johnson on Feb. 13 following a chase through Columbia. Law enforcement officers chased him after reports of a stolen car and possible kidnapping. The chase went outside the eastern city limits, ending when deputies followed him to a field near Rangeline and Richland Roads. Deputies claim Johnson pulled out a weapon, which prompted the deputy to shoot. Family members questioned the shooting, including Johnson's possession of a gun. The Missouri State Highway Patrol investigated the shooting at the sheriff's department request.

Shellabarger's letter said Johnson pointed a handgun at Verble during the chase. Shellabarger said Johnson did so while running from the deputies. The letter said Verble shot six times, killing Johnson.

"As Deputy Verble arrived on scene, he continued beside Johnson as Johnson fled on foot, and Johnson pointed a 9mm handgun at Deputy Verble at a range of less than ten yards," Shellabarger said.

Shellabarger's letter said investigators found a loaded handgun underneath Johnson's body, which Verble confirmed to be the one pointed at him.

"Officers were aware of Mr. Johnson’s possession of weapons, and Deputy Verble’s dash and body cameras, and multiple surveillance cameras, showed Mr. Johnson pointing a weapon at Deputy Verble in instances," Shellabarger wrote. "Mr. Johnson’s weapon was found, loaded, beneath his body consistent with it being in his hand at the time of the fatal shot."

A sheriff's office spokesperson declined comment. A reporter was unable to reach Johnson's family.

The prosecutor's decision is the third such choice to not charge a law enforcement officer in Boone County following a shooting. Prosecutors also said two Columbia police shootings were justified.

Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.


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