Man who killed friend and almost killed two children sleeping in house still driving

Something in the system is broken. Let’s fix it.

King 5 reports that in the months after Rodrigue Johnstone led police on a high-speed chase and crashed into a Lake Stevens house, killing his friend and nearly killing sleeping children inside, he has been arrested for extremely dangerous driving four more times. Four.

There is absolutely no excuse for why Johnstone was allowed to be out of jail let alone anywhere close to a set of car keys.

There is a clear difference between someone being negligent or even criminally negligent behind the wheel and what this guy was doing. The fact that our laws keep letting him back into the streets should be a call to action in Olympia and at the King County Prosecutor’s Office. Why is leading police on a high-speed chase through a neighborhood not treated the same as rampaging through a neighborhood firing a gun into the air? It is exactly as dangerous to the public and exactly as malicious.

Do you think Charlene Gutierrez would have cared whether her sleeping children were killed by a car or a gun? The pain is the same. The penalty should be, too.

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16 Responses to Man who killed friend and almost killed two children sleeping in house still driving

  1. Ted Diamond says:

    I agree, very very strongly.

  2. no traffic lights says:

    He should stop driving immediately and focus on playing Jesse on Breaking Bad.

  3. merlin says:

    I wish I understood how the laws work in this case. Why wasn’t he arrested after he killed his friend? Was it because he wasn’t “impaired?” Do you have to be drunk to be arrested for reckless driving?
    Do we have any effective way other than imprisonment to keep irresponsible people from driving? How do other countries (or other jurisdictions in the US) deal with this scourge?

  4. Jeffrey J. Early says:

    I couldn’t agree more!

    We have a strange moral calculus when it comes to driving. Run a red light, or veer onto the shoulder? No problem. Kill a pedestrian or cyclist while running a red light or veering onto the shoulder? Maybe a ticket. Kill a pedestrian or cyclist while running a red light or veering onto the shoulder while intoxicated? 15 years in prison.

    My example is a simplification perhaps, but either way, I agree that we need a cultural change.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I agree. Negligent driving laws are all out of whack.

      But this case isn’t negligent driving. It’s a rampage through a neighborhood with a deadly weapon. I don’t understand why it’s not being treated as a rampage. This transcends traffic laws.

      • Jeffrey J. Early says:

        I guess I’m suggesting that maybe this case is being treated differently because the car was the weapon, and anything car related is given special treatment. I see the tolerance of negligent driving and turning a blind eye to vehicles-as-a-weapon as deeply intertwined.

        Our society has decided that negligent driving and resulting 35,000 deaths per year are acceptable losses. Fair enough—it’s pretty obvious why we tolerate this (driving is crazy useful!). However, I think our tolerance is so extreme that we often ignore the more radical cases as well, like this guy. I’d say that it’s a symptom of the same disease.

      • Breadbaker says:

        I remember in law school being told, somewhat surprisingly, that one of the most frequently charged crimes was “assault with a deadly weapon–shod foot.” So shoes are deadly weapons and somehow cars aren’t? Maybe there’s a good reason to have a “war on cars.”

    • Morgan Wick says:

      This makes me wonder if we use drunk driving as a proxy for all forms of dangerous driving, becoming blind to non-drunk dangerous driving and telling ourselves if we get rid of the drunk drivers our streets will become safe. As with substituting “minorities” for “poor people”, it’s a small but important change: one keeps us from having to fully acknowledge that Horatio Alger was wrong, the other makes us think “only drunk people kill people with cars” and keeps us from thinking maybe the car is the problem.

  5. Teri says:

    I wonder if he was driving without a license? Not that it would have stopped him from driving, but this story reminds me that we need to be WAY more serious about revoking driver’s licenses (permanently) when drivers prove they can not/will not drive safely.

  6. Matthew says:

    Unfortunately, the King County prosecutor’s office just doesn’t seem to care. They are completely unresponsive to phone calls and emails, and seem to take forever to decide whether to file charges. I don’t know if they’re understaffed or what, but in case after case affecting cyclists and pedestrians, they drop the ball.

    I’d like to see some investigative reporting targeting the root of this problem, rather than those who benefit from it (like the wonderful fellow pictured above).

  7. merlin says:

    I’m still wondering what happened to people who injured or killed others while driving in a couple of cases Tom reported here on the blog over the past year – the person who ran over a woman on 15th and Harrison, and the man who killed a ten-year-old who was riding a bike near his home in Sumner. In both cases, the people driving “showed no signs of impairment” and the response just seemed to be a shrug.

  8. Nancy Lamb says:

    I think the guy should be held hostage in a crash test car, but that’s not why I am writing.
    I think you would do well to find someone who can better headlines. You might want to find a copy editor as well. I know it’s just a blog, but some basics of good writing will pull our case farther.
    This headline reads like the guy is sleeping while driving inside a house where two children are.

    Sorry for the unwanted advice here, but I love your blog. A little bit of basic punctuation, concise sentences and clear writing and it could be a great article that fuels positive change.

  9. Natalie Johnstone says:

    This is my dad and I love him he just made a mistake please don’t leave mean comments

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