Fleeing Car Kills D.C. Music Teacher
Driver Sped Up to 100 mph on City Streets, Police Say
By Del Quentin Wilber and Nicole Fuller
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 14, 2004; Page B01
A 37-year-old music teacher died early yesterday after a car crash caused by a driver who was speeding away from police in Northwest Washington, authorities said.
Billy Mack Johnson II, a jazz aficionado who taught music to children in the District's charter schools, was driving home from a jam session when his car was hit shortly after midnight. The driver of the speeding car, Gary D. Johnson, 23, of Lanham, was charged with second-degree murder and reckless driving, police said.
The two men are not related.
The crash happened shortly after officers pulled over Gary Johnson's 1985 Oldsmobile Delta 88, for having windows that appeared too darkly tinted, a traffic violation often used by officers as a pretext to find drugs or guns.
As officers began walking toward the vehicle at North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue, Johnson took off at "a high rate of speed," according to charging papers. Officers did not chase the car, but drove around the area hoping to find it, police said.
Meanwhile, Johnson continued speeding west on Florida Avenue, running three red lights and hurtling down the wrong side of the road, the charging papers said. The documents quoted witnesses as saying the car was going up to 100 mph.
While running a red light at Florida and Rhode Island avenues NW, Johnson slammed into the passenger side of Billy Mack Johnson's Nissan Maxima, the charging papers said. The crash sent the Maxima airborne before it landed on a sidewalk and slammed into the wall of a funeral home.
The musician, who lived on the 2100 block of 30th Street NE, was driving home from a session with a funk-style band, said his wife, Tonya Johnson, 37. He was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he died about 5:15 a.m., police said.
Gary Johnson, of the 7300 block of Oliver Street in Lanham, was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries and released into police custody. D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Andrea L. Harnett ordered him held without bond, noting his prior convictions for grand theft and attempted rape. Court records showed that he is wanted in Prince George's County for driving with a suspended license and other traffic offenses.
A passenger in Gary Johnson's car, a 32-year-old woman, was hospitalized with a broken leg and other injuries that are not life-threatening, police said. She was not charged with a crime.
Tonya Johnson said her husband particularly loved jazz, and rarely ventured anywhere without his trumpet.
"Being a musician was his thing," she said, adding that his memorial service would include a jam session for local musicians.
"My husband would do gigs and not get paid," she added. "He just wanted to play."
Born in Tulsa, Johnson excelled at baseball and music, and he earned an athletic scholarship to Howard University, his wife said. Although he continued to play baseball, his true passion was playing music and performing in the school's marching band, she said.
After graduation, he held jobs at local jazz establishments and as a sound and lighting engineer at an auditorium. Most recently, he was a music teacher at D.C. charter schools. He spent most of his time in the classrooms of the Arts and Technology Academy Public Charter School, Tonya Johnson said.
"He wanted to show children that music could be your ticket out of poverty," she said. "My husband loved teaching."
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Billy Mack Johnson II, a trumpet player who loved to jam and teach, died after a speeding vehicle hit his car in Northwest Washington, police said.
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