10 years ago today Ron “R.J.” Johnson was killed in failed prison escape

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It was 10 years ago today when correctional officer Ron “R.J.” Johnson was killed in a failed prison escape.

Although it’s been a decade, the emotions and heartache are still as raw as they were back then.

Back in 2011 Johnson was beaten with a pipe and had his head covered in plastic wrap by two inmates at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, who were attempting an escape.

It was his birthday.

His family always said, R.J. was the kind of correctional officer everyone wanted, tough, courageous but very likeable, even by the inmates.

The two prisoners, who killed Johnson were Eric Robert and Rodney Berget.

Both were executed by lethal injection.

KELOLAND’s Don Jorgensen was one of the witnesses at Berget’s execution.

“As I was observing and taking notes, I was also thinking about Lynette Johnson, and waiting for Berget to say something to the family, to apologize, but it never came,” Jorgensen said.

KELOLAND News talked with Lynette Johnson following the execution.

She described the day as long, emotional, and stressful.

“Any employee who walks behind the walls every day is a little bit safer now. So the execution had to be,” Lynette Johnson said.

Volk: Does it bring you any closure?
Lynette Johnson: What do you mean closure? Is it going to bring Ron back? No. Is it going to put my family back together? Is it going to take my nightmares away? No.

R.J. Johnson had served with the Department of Corrections for 23 years. He would have been 73 years old today.

Berget’s execution was the state’s fourth since it reinstituted the death penalty in 1979.

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