Police shooting victim honored with memorial park

Nearly 12 years after Atlanta police officers acting on a no-knock warrant fatally gunned down a 92-year-old grandmother, the city council has announced plans to name a park after her. Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park will be located a few blocks from where Kathryn Johnston was killed in an illegal drug raid.

“The City would like to insure tragedies like these never happen again and believe that this honorable resident’s sacrifice, once memorialized, will serve as a constant reminder of the ongoing efforts to insure we not only remember, but continue to educate and prevent future tragedies,” reads an ordinance proposed by Councilman Ivory Lee Young, who represents the area.

The city owns the land, which is located in an are English Avenue Neighborhood of Atlanta now unofficially known as Boone West Park. The park may be developed with trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, parking and gazebos, the ordinance said.

Johnston was in her Neal Street home of 17 years on Nov. 21, 2006 when officers, acting on a warrant that allowed them to enter without knocking, cut down burglar bars Johnston had installed and broke her door down. The elderly resident raised a pistol she kept in her home for safety and fired. They returned fire and shot at her 39 times, hitting her at least six times. As Johnston lay dying, the officers handcuffed her and planted marijuana they'd recovered from a different raid in her house. No other drugs were found in Johnston's home.

Investigators would later find that the paperwork stating that drugs were in Johnston's home, the basis for the no-knock warrant, was obtained based on false information. After an extensive local and federal probe, four officers pleaded guilty and were sentenced to federal prison terms, one received probation, two were fired, one resigned and six were disciplined. In 2010, then Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced a $4.9 million settlement with the family.

“Clearly a terrible wrong was committed in this tragic case. In the end, the city was forced to step up and right this wrong, as well as can be under our system of laws,” family attorney Nicholas Moraitakis said at the time. “It is always gratifying to be on the side seeking and receiving justice.”

Staff writer Ernie Suggs contributed to this article.