The double doors of UAB Hospital opened into a corridor filled with people. Hundreds maybe. Too many people to count. They lined the walls, shoulder to shoulder. Heads bowed. Some wore badges. Others wore scrubs. Everyone was anvil silent.

The hero was passing by.

A hospital gurney entered the hallway. A police officer barked out the military-like call.


Immediately, the corridor filled with the noises of clicking heels and the rustle of starched trousers as officers stood erect, chins up, shoulders back, chests out. There were duty belts galore. Body-mounted radios aplenty.

Male and female officers held themselves ramrod straight, unblinking.

The hospital bed wheeled forward at a dirge-like pace. Nurses steered. There was no chit-chat. No idle conversation. A real life hero was motionless beneath the sheets.

The uniforms had all come from the surrounding counties and rural backwaters within the quiltwork of central Alabama. Woodstock. Brent. Centerville. Chelsea.

They wore khakis, forest greens, and Class-B tactical blues. They represented different agencies from across the 22nd State, but the same brotherhood.

“PRESENT ARMS!” came the shout.

A throng of officers showed full salute.

The body of 32-year-old deputy Brad Johnson trundled down the hallway, toward the organ donor center. The corridor between the two medical buildings is roughly the distance of two city blocks. There were more than two blocks’ worth of onlookers.

They call this an “Honor Walk.” It is a ceremony of respect reserved for deceased saints, for exceptional people, for those who have chosen to be organ donors.

And, of course, for heroes.

People sniffed noses. Shoulders quivered with tearful sobs. Following behind the bed was a train of Brad’s mourners, which included Brad’s K9 partner, Bodie. A German shepherd.

“It was in his blood and in his heart to help people,” said a longtime friend, Brandon Jones. “He would do anything for anybody.”

And he proved it. Brad made a life of servitude. He started out as a firefighter before moving to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department, where he worked as a K9 handler for seven years.

“Working in law enforcement isn’t just a job,” said one Alabama policeman. “It’s a calling. It’s a lifestyle. Brad made all law enforcement proud by being a hero.”

Brad Johnson. Father of two. Engaged to be married. He had a babyface and a familiar smile. He looked like a grown-up Boy Scout, or a former jayvee quarterback, or the kid who took your daughter to prom. He was your quintessential all-American 30-something. He liked fishing. Donuts. People. Scrolling TikTok. He was a dog guy.

Brad was well-known around town for bringing his K9 sidekick to local senior centers, nursing-home recreation halls Sunday schools and elementary classrooms to perform demonstrations. He was entertaining. Jovial. The kids ate him up with silverware.

“He was always there, any time I needed him,” said close friend Leslie Hubbard. “Always crackin’ jokes and making everyone laugh.”

The hero’s bed inched forward, past the saluting cops. Someone was weeping uncontrollably. The sounds of tearful explosions spread throughout the hallway. Throughout the hospital. Throughout the county.

Throughout the state.

A few nights ago Brad and his fellow deputy Christopher Poole were shot in the line of duty while pursuing a suspect. They were near the intersection of Highway 25 and Bulldog Bend Road when it happened. The shots-fired call was radioed in. The officers were rushed to UAB. Brad went downhill fast. He was removed from life support yesterday afternoon.

Any details about his killer aren’t worth discussing here because this isn’t about giving more attention to a kid with a gun. This is about the hero in a gurney.

And he was a hero. Make no mistake. Brad Johnson was one of the 44,421 law enforcement heroes who are assaulted with personal weapons each year. He will forever be numbered among the nameless men and women in uniforms, people you rarely notice, although you see them each day.

They are the lionhearted patrolmen and patrolwomen who roam the county routes, byways, sidestreets, schools, churches, and public spaces.

They are peace officers who dedicate their existence to catching bad guys, saving lives, bringing teenage runaways home, changing tires for elderly motorists, and occasionally delivering groceries to shut-ins. They are servants.

Or perhaps Bibb County Sheriff, Jody Wade, said it best.

“It’s been said that a coward dies a thousand deaths, but a hero dies but one. Brad Johnson was a hero.”

You bet your life he was.


  1. Debbie - July 2, 2022 7:20 am

    Precious. 🙏😢❤️

  2. Ed (Bear) - July 2, 2022 7:47 am

    There’s no greater act of love and sacrifice than to lay down your life for another. Those of us who are shielded and protected owe deputy Brad Johnson and many many others our very lives.

    Thank you for your beautiful tribute Sean.

  3. 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - July 2, 2022 7:50 am

    👏👏👏👏👏. No words.

  4. Sheri Ferguson - July 2, 2022 10:07 am


  5. Anne Arthur - July 2, 2022 10:43 am

    A worthy tribute to a hero. Thank you.

  6. Debbie g - July 2, 2022 10:46 am

    🥲 🇱🇷🇱🇷

  7. Sandy Nicholson - July 2, 2022 11:15 am

    Wonderful, heart breaking column. Thank you.

  8. Beth Wannamaker - July 2, 2022 11:34 am

    A beautiful tribute. My prayers go out to his family both personal family and law enforcement family.

  9. Jack Tucker - July 2, 2022 11:52 am

    Heartbreaking loss to family, friends and law enforcement.

  10. Joy Jacobs - July 2, 2022 12:11 pm


  11. Martha Owens - July 2, 2022 12:30 pm

    Beautiful, well-deserved tribute to a real hero.

  12. Melanie - July 2, 2022 12:45 pm

    To all in the law enforcement family: everywhere there are many hearts that break and tears that are shed when you lose a hero. Thank you always for your sacrifices. 🖤💙🖤💙Back the Blue💙🖤💙🖤

  13. Sandra Jobes - July 2, 2022 1:00 pm

    Beautiful and so moving . Thank you for sharing this hero .

  14. Ann Williams - July 2, 2022 1:15 pm

    Beautifully said. Thank you.

  15. Marana Parker - July 2, 2022 1:20 pm

    Oh, wow! What a hero Brad and all law enforcement and firefighters are. Prayers for Brad’s family🙏🏼🙏🏼

  16. Rickey Rhodes (John F.) - July 2, 2022 1:20 pm

    Well said Sean!!

  17. Don Gardner - July 2, 2022 1:28 pm

    I’m so thankful for the men and women who serve us as law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. They put their lives on the line everyday. Thank you Sean for sharing that story.

  18. Cathy M - July 2, 2022 1:35 pm

    Wonderful comments from everyone. This is why we all need to thank those people in law enforcement whenever we encounter them. I started doing thAt a couple of yrs. Ago as well as those in the military. Think of Brad the next time you see an officer and then thank him for his service. We owe him and all those in law enforcement gratitude. May he Rest In Peace and May God be with his loved ones as they grieve and try to heal . 💙🙏🏻

  19. Mark Capaldini - July 2, 2022 1:38 pm

    Thanks for your wonderful piece about Deputy Sheriff Brad. And for mentioning organ donation. There are over 90,000 Americans on the waiting list for donated kidneys. Every day 10-15 people on that list die. While 20,000+ kidney transplants are done in our country, many from deceased donors such as Brad, the demand is growing faster than the supply.

  20. Connie - July 2, 2022 1:44 pm

    Beautifully said. The fact that he was an organ donor just makes his hero status even more apparent. May God be with his family and all those who loved him. What a tragedy. 🙏🏼

  21. David Britnell - July 2, 2022 1:48 pm

    Pretty gut-wrenching. I am so thankful for our law enforcement officers.

  22. Bobby - July 2, 2022 1:54 pm

    One of your best tributes my friend. I spent 35 years in law enforcement and attended quite a few funerals for brothers in blue. Hearing the final bugle call never gets easy.

  23. debbiecorder - July 2, 2022 2:06 pm

    And now he continues to save lives through the gift of organ donor ship…a true hero. Thank you for sharing this.

  24. Dianne - July 2, 2022 2:11 pm

    Thank you for your tribute to Brad and all of his other fellow officers who put their lives on the line every time they walk out their front door. He was a true hero and a truly good, good human being. God bless his family and friends.

  25. Tom Bole - July 2, 2022 2:26 pm

    RIP Brad Johnson. I never knew you, but I know who you are. The world needs more of you…and now it won’t get it, unless from others like you, who strive, like you, to make it a better place. Be at peace, good and faithful servant.

  26. sassylibbycat - July 2, 2022 2:38 pm

    Thank you so very much Sean. I was a police sergeant for Orlando Police Department for 20 years. It is so touching to be appreciated and respected – you have no idea how much it means – especially today when everyone seems to hate and distrust the police.

  27. Gordon - July 2, 2022 3:00 pm

    Thank you for your remembrance of and tribute to hero Brad Johnson, Sean.

  28. Amy Rogers - July 2, 2022 3:18 pm


  29. virginia westlake - July 2, 2022 3:18 pm


  30. Patricia Gibson - July 2, 2022 4:23 pm

    Brought me to tears. I don’t know how they get anyone to be a police officer. Little pay for a dangerous under appreciated job. God bless his family 🙏

  31. Gary - July 2, 2022 4:43 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes. Praying for his loved ones.

  32. sjhl7 - July 2, 2022 6:08 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to a fallen hero!

  33. DCE - July 2, 2022 6:12 pm

    Thank you Sean. Beautiful tribute. We all need to be reminded of “real heroes.

  34. Mary - July 2, 2022 6:21 pm

    With our 4th com8ng up I think, freedom to bear arms is something I truly believe in, but there comes a time. God rest his soul. We can deny rights but in the end God will be the shooters judge. 😢🙏🙏

  35. Cindy - July 2, 2022 6:29 pm

    Thank you for such an honorable tribute Sean. 💙🖤💙

  36. Suellen - July 2, 2022 6:55 pm

    It’s in the news here that the small town of Allen KY, population 193 at last count, sent deputies out to serve a warrant on a domestic. The alert went out of an active shooter. The suspect shot 8 people. 7 of them law enforcement and 1 emergency response person I believe. 3 of them have died so far. The bastard even killed the police K-9.

  37. Larry Wall - July 2, 2022 7:14 pm

    Well done and thank you, Brad Johnson. And well said, Sean.

  38. Dee Thompson - July 2, 2022 9:17 pm

    Beautiful tribute. I have a cousin who is a policeman and I always think of him when I read things like this. So much sacrifice. So much honor.

  39. Susie Flick - July 2, 2022 9:31 pm

    RIP Brad – prayers, hugs and peace to your family.

  40. Linda Moon - July 2, 2022 10:41 pm

    Brad Johnson…only 32, and he left this world too soon. My best friend lost her dad who was a police officer to a gunman. He was the father of four kids. So, I shed a few tears thinking about Brad Johnson and my friend’s father. Thank you for the honor you’ve given to the to heroes today.

  41. Cathy Pettit - July 2, 2022 10:58 pm

    This is so beautifully written and so heartbreaking . I am so proud of this young man and I don’t even know him. Even in his death he is still giving, he is giving the gift of life to others. Heaven has another Angel that I am sure was welcomed with wide open arms. Prayers for his brothers in law enforcement in any capacity and for his partner, his K9 . I know he will miss him. Prayers for his family, especially his daughters and his fiancé . Go rest high on that mountain 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 Thank you for everything ❤️🙏🏻

  42. Daniel Wayne Schumacher - July 2, 2022 11:26 pm


  43. Karen - July 2, 2022 11:28 pm


  44. Bev - July 3, 2022 12:12 am

    No words. 💙💔

  45. Randy Christian - July 3, 2022 12:16 am

    Thank you Sean for honoring this young hero taken way too soon. I was on the job 38 years. For every Brad Johnson we lose a little piece of us is lost with him and the world grows just a little bit dimmer.

  46. Phil - July 3, 2022 1:47 am

    You bet your life he was. Peace

  47. Dianne - July 3, 2022 2:21 am

    Thank you for this tribute to a hero.

  48. Mark - July 3, 2022 3:16 am

    Thank for the time it takes to share your observations, stories, others’ stories, and hope.

  49. Bkr - July 3, 2022 3:45 am

    😢 well said and thank you

  50. Connie - July 3, 2022 1:49 pm

    Heavy heart 😢.
    A very well written column, Sean. Thank you.

  51. Kim Morris Ladoczky - July 3, 2022 1:53 pm

    Thank You, as a LEOW, thank you.💔🖤💙🖤💔

  52. Patricia Couch - July 3, 2022 3:42 pm

    Please continue to pray for All Public Safety employess and volunteers and their familes. They are working for YOU by God’s direction and grace to protect us all from evil every single day.🙏

  53. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 4, 2022 1:43 am


  54. Tiffiney Smith - July 4, 2022 4:46 pm

    Thanks you for your service, Brad. Thank you, Sean for shining a light on his life. May his eternal light shine bright.

  55. walnutshademom - July 4, 2022 4:54 pm

    I sent this to our friend – who works as a sheriff’s deputy, provides school security, and plays keyboard on our church’s worship team – along with this note: “I read this tonight and thanked God again for you and your family.” He replied, “That is a really good write up. Thank you!”

  56. Jewell - July 4, 2022 4:54 pm

    Thanks for the tribute

  57. walnutshademom - July 4, 2022 4:57 pm

    I sent this to our friend – who serves as a sheriff’s deputy, provides school security, and plays keyboard on our church’s worship team – along with this note: “I read this tonight and thanked God again for you and your family.” He replied, “That is a really good write up. Thank you!”

  58. Kathy - July 5, 2022 1:35 pm

    Thank you for honoring this young hero. Our son spoke at the service for his best friend, officer Stephen Carr. He was ambushed while sitting in his patrol car in Fayetteville, AR on December 7, 2019. He was 27. We will never be over it. Every death of these heroes who leave us too soon breaks our hearts again. Our police need our support. Thank you for expressing yours.

  59. Carol - July 7, 2022 11:29 pm



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