Grandmother of man shot and killed by deputy at Walmart says her grandson needed mental help

Mobile County

SEMMES, Ala. (WKRG) — The grandmother of the man shot and killed by a Mobile County deputy says her grandson needed mental help.

She says her grandson, Bernie Wade Johnson Junior, would steal as a way to go to jail, so he could have a place to sleep and try and get help.

Johnson Junior’s family says he had paranoid schizophrenia. They say they tried to get him help for a long time before him coming to the Walmart. Now the family hopes in the wake of their tragedy mental health gets some much needed help.

His grandmother, Rosalie Johnson said,  “I think the voices got so many, I think he wanted that to happen.”

Witnesses say a man, identified by family as Bernie Wade Johnson Junior, was walking out of Walmart with more than one thousand dollars of stolen electronics. Associates tried stopping him, but witnesses say he grabbed a hammer placed just outside the store’s entrance.

Rosalie Johnson, “He would take things to get put in jail so he would have a place to stay. Not that his family deserted him, but he was impossible to live with.”

Rosalie said she tried getting her grandson help for his paranoid schizophrenia. She said, “I don’t understand why they didn’t do more for him. Three times they kept him a week and let him go. Give him medicine and let him go.”

The sheriff’s office says a deputy saw Bernie Wade Johnson Junior going across the parking lot. Paul Burch with the sheriff’s office says Johnson Junior threatened the deputy. The deputy tried talking Johnson Junior down, but Burch said, Johnson Junior tried attacking the deputy with a claw hammer.

Burch said, “There are a number of witnesses who heard the suspect loudly stating, you’re going to kill me or I’m going to kill you.”  

Rosalie said, “I think he’s just tired, and I’m going to miss him. I’m sorry, but I’m going to miss him”

We spoke with a witness who says she was worried for the deputy as she watched from a nearby restaurant. Christine Landers said, “I walked out of the bathroom and all of a sudden we see all this commotion going on, and in my opinion, the police officer had nothing else to do but to protect himself, so he did what he had to do.”

Johnson Junior’s grandma hopes bringing attention to her grandson’s struggles gets lawmakers to address mental health. She said, “What’s the government thinking? These are people and they need help and sometimes the family cannot help them.”

We reached out to Walmart and the company tells News 5 no one in the store was hurt, and it’s turning over surveillance video to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office says because a deputy was involved there will be an internal investigation.

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