K-9 Officer Nick O'Rear

Birth: January 6, 1987
Death: February 5, 2020

Sgt. Stephen Williams

K-9 Officer Nick O’Rear, age 33, of Morris, Alabama passed away on Wednesday February 5, 2020. Nick was born January 6, 1987.

Nick is survived by his parents Daniel and Kelly O’Rear, sister, Ashley O’Rear Blankenship (Chad); his children Everlee Rae O’Rear, Briar Daniel O’Rear and Weston Nicholas Charles O’Rear; girlfriend, Brittany Chafin and daughter Katie; and his canine partner, Stella. Nick is also survived by his aunt Mickey O’Muse (John); uncle, Danny Bowen, aunt Tammy O’Neal, aunt Duska Powell and grandmother Agnes O’Rear Jackson, cousins, Ronnie Bowen (Kristy), Jon Bowen (Tammy), Jay O’Rear (Holly), Tommy Powell (Stacy), Tara Glenn, Heather O’Neal, Jennifer VanHaasen (Xavier). Nick is proceeded in death by grandparents Billy and Carolyn (Jo) Powell, granfather George O’Rear Jr, aunt Carolyn Powell O’Rear and cousin Andy Bowen.

Nick was a graduate of St Clair County High School in 2006 Graduate of the Alabama Fire College – Tuscaloosa Graduate of the UAB EMT School Worked as a firefighter for the city of Margaret, Alabama and Branchville, Alabama. Graduate of Northeast Alabama Law Enforcement Academy, Class 174. Served as a Police Officer for Ashville, Alabama, Trafford, Alabama, a K-9 Officer for Kimberly, Alabama. Nick was always doing something. Not only did he serve as a police officer, he owned and operated Southern Lawn Care and Xtreme Pressure Washing LLC. He was a Ham Radio Operator. He was an ordained Minister and he married his sister Ashley and brother-in-law, Chad. Nick had so many accomplishments, when he put his mind to something, he did it. He always had a smile on his face, and it lit up a room. He never met a stranger. He had a big heart and he loved big. He was also quite the jokester, he always knew how to make you laugh.

A visitation will occur Monday, February 10, 2020 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM at Gardendale First Baptist Church, 316 Mountain Crest Parkway, Gardendale, AL 35071. A celebration of life service will occur Monday, February 10, 2020 at 1:00 PM at Gardendale First Baptist Church, 316 Mountain Crest Parkway, Gardendale, AL 35071. A graveside service will occur at Jefferson Memorial Gardens, 1591 Gadsden Hwy, Birmingham, AL 35235.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.ridoutsgardendalechapel.com for the O’Rear family.

Criminal Details

AL.com
Carol Robinson - Updated Feb 10, 2020; Posted Feb 10, 2020

‘His legacy will not be forgotten’: Fallen Kimberly police officer Nick O’Rear laid to rest

A 33-year-old police officer shot to death nearly one week ago was remembered Monday for his kindness, his devotion to policing, his mischievous sense of humor and, most of all, a selfless love for others.

Kimberly police officer Nick O’Rear was fatally shot Tuesday night during a pursuit on Interstate 65 South. He was pronounced dead early Wednesday at UAB Hospital.

“Nick lived life big, he lived life to the fullest,’’ said the Rev. Duane Terpo, the music minister at Church on the Bluff in Hoover and the father of O’Rear’s pregnant girlfriend. “He had a servant’s heart like someone I’ve never seen before. His legacy will not be forgotten."

More than 400 law enforcement officers representing least 50 agencies from around the state and beyond – some from as far away as Boston and New York City – joined the throng of mourners at Gardendale First Baptist Church Monday. Shortly before the service began, the officer’s held a Final Salute, filing one-by-one by O’Rear’s flag-draped casket.

In a particularly poignant moment, O’Rear’s K9, Stella, was the last officer to enter the sanctuary to honor her handler. “I’ve always heard about the thin blue line, but I never understood it until this happened,’’ Terpo said. “It is an amazing thing."

O’Rear was a father to two – daughter Everlee and son Briar. His third child, son Weston, is due in a few months.

The officer graduated from St. Clair County High School in 2006 and later graduated from the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa as well as UAB’s EMT School.

O’Rear worked as a firefighter for the cities of Margaret and Branchville before graduating from the Northeast Alabama Law Enforcement Academy and beginning his law enforcement career. He served as a police officer the cities of Ashville and Trafford before joining Kimberly’s force in February 2019, where he completed training both as a sniper and a K9 handler.

Additionally, he was a ham radio operator and owned and operated Southern Lawn Care and Xtreme Pressure Washing LLC. He was an ordained minister. “Nick had so many accomplishments. When he put his mind to something, he did it,’’ his obituary reads. “He always had a smile on his face, and it lit up a room. He never met a stranger. He had a big heart and he loved big.”

The shooting happened about 10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, when Warrior police attempted to stop a vehicle for an expired tag. When the vehicle would not stop, Kimberly police joined the chase. Authorities said the Kimberly officer got in front of the suspect – now identified as 37-year-old Preston Johnson - and that’s when shots were fired. A Warrior resident who lives near the shooting scene said she heard 10 to 12 shots in rapid succession.

O’Rear was struck in the head while driving and crashed his cruiser a short distance away. He was rushed by Warrior firefighters to UAB Hospital via police escort and pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday.

His death marks the first time a Kimberly police officer has ever been killed in the line of duty.

Johnson, who has a lengthy criminal history, was taken into custody within hours of the deadly shooting. Multiple law enforcement agencies took him into custody early Wednesday on U.S. 78 near Dora.

The Rev. Tony Barber, pastor at Church on the Bluff, said he had only known O’Rear for several months and said he was “an easy person to like.” While he’s heard many say, “It must have been Nick’s time,” Barber said he disagreed.

“I don’t happen to think it was Nick’s time,’’ he said. “Evil is real. Evil is in this world, and evil took the life of Nick O’Rear.”

“The only answer to evil,’’ he went on to say, “is to know Jesus Christ.”

Kimberly Fire and Rescue Capt. Robert Mashburn said O’Rear was one of the “most unique individuals you'd ever meet," and said he “jumped in with both feet” after joining the force nearly one year ago.

"There's some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains," Mashburn said. “He was a man of honor. I owe it to him to be worthy of his sacrifice, as do you.”

Following the service, a lengthy procession made its way from Gardendale to Jefferson Memorial Gardens in Trussville.

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday ordered flags be flown at half-staff on Monday until sunset in honor of the fallen officer. “On this somber day, we remember the life of Kimberly Police Officer Nick O’Rear,’’ Ivey said Monday in a social media post. “We will lift his loved ones, comrades and the city of Kimberly in prayer as Officer O’Rear is laid to rest.”

Terpo said that he saw O’Rear at church on the Sunday before his slaying.

“There was a peace about him that day I can’t explain,’’ Terpo said. “I’d never seen that before. It’s almost as if God was preparing Nick for what was to come.”

“Nick’s life was taken way too soon. We can’t make it through this alone,” he said. “But I’m reminded of God’s promise – He never leaves us and he never forsakes us.”

Source: View AL.com Article

Criminal Details

AL.com
Carol Robinson - Updated Mar 05, 2020; Posted Mar 05, 2020

Man accused in Alabama officer’s killing fired AK-47 out front, back of his BMW, agent testifies

The suspect in the deadly shooting of an Alabama police officer last month grabbed an assault rifle from the back seat of his BMW and opened fire from the sedan when he realized police were in front and behind his vehicle on Interstate 65, according to an SBI agent.

Preston Johnson, 37, was in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Alaric May in the February slaying of Kimberly police Officer Nick O’Rear and the attempted murder of Warrior police Officer Lee Glenn. Johnson is charged with three counts of capital murder, attempted murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. He also has been indicted on federal gun charges.

The shooting happened Tuesday, Feb. 4, on Interstate 65. O’Rear, a 33-year-old father of two with a child on the way, was struck in the head. He was pronounced dead in early the next morning at UAB Hospital.

Jefferson County Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Roberts and Deputy District Attorney Deborah Danneman are prosecuting. Johnson is represented by appointed attorneys David Simpson and Wakisha Hazzard.

Family members of both O’Rear and Johnson attended Thursday. Johnson’s family, who have not made any public statements about Johnson or the accusations against him, declined to comment. Johnson smiled at them when he was brought into the courtroom.

State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Pete Acosta, the lone witness in Thursday’s hearing, testified about witness statements. That night, Glenn – the Warrior officer – was parked alongside I-65 and spotted an approaching black BMW. When the driver of the BMW – later identified as Johnson – spotted the patrol cruiser, he began to drive erratically. Glenn activated his emergency equipment, Johnson failed to stop, and a chase began.

Revealed in Acosta’s testimony today: A woman civilian was doing a “ride-along” with Glenn.

As Glenn pursued the black BMW, testimony showed, O’Rear heard the radio traffic and joined in. When he entered I-65, he was ahead of Johnson’s vehicle and Glenn was behind the suspect.

Acosta testified that a woman was with Johnson. He had picked her up and was taking her to her mother’s house. That woman told police that when Johnson noticed a police officer behind him, he told her to grab a gun. She refused. At that point, she told agents, Johnson reached into the back seat and retrieved a long gun, which court records state was a Norinco Mak-90 AK-47.

Johnson, according to the witness, fired through the front windshield at O’Rear’s vehicle and then fired through the back windshield at Glenn’s vehicle. Once they realized there were no more police officers behind them, they exited the interstate and parked the BMW behind a church. Johnson then made some phone calls and the pair was picked up by another man and woman in a white GMC pickup truck.

Johnson’s passenger told police they left multiple items in the woods near where they had left the BMW. Acosta said investigators recovered the assault rifle, a Glock 9 mm handgun, a set of keys, a military camouflage jacket, a purse, a backpack and some narcotics.

Acosta said investigators had quickly identified Johnson as a suspect because of the vehicle’s description and law enforcement’s previous contact with him. A lookout bulletin was issued first to law enforcement only, but later a Blue Alert went out statewide.

Authorities were able to determine that Johnson had switched vehicles because the wife of the man who picked up Johnson was tracking him via social media, according to court testimony. The wife said she had called her husband to see if he was coming home and he told her he had to go pick up Johnson who had either had a wreck or was having car trouble. The wife then saw news bulletins that Johnson was wanted, and she called police to tell them that Johnson was with her husband. It wasn’t clear in testimony how the woman was tracking her husband’s movements, but Acosta said it wasn’t through a phone app.

Johnson and the other man and two women were taken into custody shortly before 1 a.m. on Feb. 5 on U.S. 78 near Dora. Jefferson County deputies, Adamsville and Sumiton police were among those at the arrest.

Johnson’s passenger picked Johnson out of a photo lineup as the man she was riding with. After questioning, Johnson was taken to the Jefferson County Jail and the other man and two women were released without being charged.

Acosta testified that both police cruisers – those belonging to O’Rear and Quinn – were heavily damaged by gunfire. Additionally, O’Rear’s vehicle suffered additional damage from crashing into the interstate median after he was shot. O’Rear’s rear window was shattered by gunfire, and there was blood evidence throughout the vehicle, including on O’Rear’s headrest.

Simpson, one of Johnson’s attorneys, argued that it was premature to charge Johnson with capital murder. He pointed out that the investigation is ongoing and said that the woman riding with Johnson had not, and could not, yet be eliminated as the person who fired the shots.

“This is a bit premature,’’ Simpson said. “There is another viable suspect.” He said Johnson was under “substantial hardship” facing charges of killing a police officer.

Prosecutor Roberts, however, said there was substantial evidence against Johnson to send the case to a grand jury for indictment consideration. The judge agreed and bound the case over, ordering Johnson remain held without bond.

Johnson has a lengthy criminal history, according to state and federal court records.

Source: View AL.com Article

Criminal Details

AL.com
Carol Robinson - Updated Mar 02, 2020; Posted Mar 02, 2020

Suspect in killing of Kimberly police officer indicted on federal gun charges

The suspect in the fatal shooting of a Kimberly police officer has now been indicted on federal gun charges.

Preston Johnson, 37, is charged federally with three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The indictments were issued in late February, and announced by federal authorities on Monday.

Johnson already is facing state charges of capital murder in the February slaying of Officer Nick O’Rear, who was fatally shot that Tuesday night during a pursuit on Interstate 65 South. Johnson is also charged with attempted murder for shooting at the Warrior police officer who initiated the pursuit of Johnson.

According to the federal indictments, Johnson on Oct. 31, 2019 was in possession of an Anderson AM-15 5.56mm rifle. At the time he was in possession of that weapon, he had already been convicted in 2017 of unlawful possession of a controlled substance in both Cullman and Morgan counties, as well as first-degree theft in Cullman County in 2005.

On Feb. 4, 2020, the night O’Rear was shot, authorities say Johnson was in possession of a Norinco Mak90, 7.62 mm rifle. And on Feb. 5 – which is when O’Rear was officially pronounced dead and when Johnson was captured – Johnson was in possession of a Glock Model 19 9mm pistol.

“Violent convicted felons with firearms will answer to federal charges in the Northern District of Alabama,” said Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Jay Town. “We are indebted to the brave law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm’s way to ensure that this violent criminal was brought to justice.”

“ATF’s focus on removing illegally possessed firearms from prohibited individual’s aids in reducing the potential for violent crime,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson.

The maximum penalty for being a felon in possession of a firearm is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. ATF investigated the case along with Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and several other local law enforcement agencies, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Becher, Sr. is prosecuting.

O’Rear, 33, was a father of two with a third child on the way and had been a Kimberly police officer for a year or less. “Everybody loved him,” Kimberly Mayor Bob Ellerbrock said. “He was a tremendous asset to our community.”

Johnson has a lengthy criminal history, according to state and federal court records.

According to state court records, Johnson was arrested in Cullman County on Oct. 31, 2019 on charges of possession of drugs with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police found him with 13 grams methamphetamines, suboxone, baggies, and scales. Records state Johnson was also in possession of a stolen Corvette.

Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry at the time told AL.com that Johnson also had an AR-15, which he was forbidden to have because he is a convicted felon.

That case had a hearing set for March 2, records state.

The Cullman County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday filed a motion to revoke Johnson’s bond on those drug charges. Though he had been arrested on 20 different charges dating back to the early 2000s, and convicted of at least six felony charges, he was released on his own recognizance just five days after his Oct. 31, 2019 arrest.

“While on bond…the defendant has been booked into the Jefferson County Jail on a charge of capital murder of a Kimberly police officer,’’ wrote Cullman County Assistant District Attorney Jefferey H. Roberts.

In addition to those pending 2019 cases, Johnson pleaded guilty in 2017 to drug possession with intent to distribute and sentenced to 75 months in jail. His attorney asked he be able to take part in a diversion program, however a judge denied that request.

In 2011, Johnson pleaded guilty to drug possession. He was sentenced to 15 years with 18 months to serve. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to drug possession and was sentenced to five years in prison.

In 2005, he pleaded guilty to theft of property and received a 15-year suspended sentence. He pleaded guilty to forgery in 2001 and received a three-year sentence.

In addition to Johnson’s criminal history in state courts, Johnson was indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2012 on a charge of being a felon in possession of a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber pistol during a June 20, 2009 arrest in Winston County.

The indictment cited Johnson’s previous criminal convictions: a June 6, 2001 conviction in Cullman for possession of a forged instrument; an Aug. 15, 2001 conviction in Cullman County for second degree forgery; and a May 17, 2005 conviction in Cullman County for first degree theft of property.

Johnson pleaded guilty to the gun charge. He was sentenced to a year and one day in prison and a supervised release term of three years.

Johnson was arrested on January 11, 2016, for violating the terms and conditions of that supervised release. The next month, a federal magistrate judge sent him to federal prison for 12 months and a day.

According to the federal magistrate’s order: “After being placed on supervised release, defendant Johnson admitted to use of methamphetamine in January 2015. He was later placed in the Color-Code Random Urinalysis Program for drug testing. Defendant never showed up for the first drug test. He failed to report for drug testing in June, July, August, September, and October 2015. Defendant Johnson failed to appear for his test in August 2015 after having been specifically told to attend.

“Defendant Johnson is also supposed to report to his U.S. Probation Officer each month. He reported in October 2015, but he has failed to report since that time.”

The federal case against Johnson is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to communities.

Johnson’s arraignment on the federal charges is set for March 12. He is scheduled to appear in state court Thursday in connection with O’Rear’s slaying

Source: View AL.com Article

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