Robin Johnson said she doesn’t remember what happened the morning Chicago Police officer Richard Francis was killed.
It was when the grandmother was lying in a hospital bed — recovering from a volley of gunshots fired by Francis’ colleagues — that she learned she was accused of disarming the 27-year veteran and murdering him with his own service revolver.
“I don’t like police officers but I don’t go around killing them,” Johnson said in court Wednesday before she was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the officer’s fatal shooting.
Johnson, 50, tearfully apologized to Francis’ family Wednesday before the judge handed down the life sentence as well as an additional 15 years in prison for aggravated discharge of a firearm for shooting at an officer who tried to help Francis on July 2, 2008.
“I ain’t fought police. I wouldn’t do that,” said Johnson, who suffers from psychogenic seizures that her attorneys said cause her to black out and become combative.
Johnson also told Cook County Judge Thomas Gainer, “If I did it, I deserve to be in [jail].”
While Gainer acknowledged Johnson’s remorse, he also pointed out that during Johnson’s October trial, a sheriff’s deputy heard her tell another inmate that she would “[kill Francis] again” if given the chance.
Gainer told Johnson she “earned” her sentence for “robbing” Francis from his life a year before retirement and taking away a loving husband and stepfather.
Deborah Francis, who met her husband on a blind date in 1995, said “Rick” treated her two daughters from a previous relationship as if they were his own.
The 60-year-old was so kind, he once withdrew money from the bank to help a struggling couple pay their bills and buy Christmas presents, Deborah Francis said.
“Our family was completely torn apart by his murder. . . . I still can’t attend police functions and memorials because it hurts too much and I get too emotional,” Deborah Francis said in court.
“I cannot forgive her and I will never forget the horrible act.”
Richard Francis was killed when Johnson got a hold of his gun after he confronted her about an altercation on a CTA bus near the Belmont District police station.
Defense attorney Kulmeet S. “Bob” Galhotra didn’t mention Johnson’s reported mental illness and substance abuse struggles but told jurors his client was “confused, distressed and in need of help” during her interaction with other commuters and her ensuing struggle with Francis.
Galhotra noted Wednesday that Johnson has no previous criminal background.
“She is not your typical cop killer,” he said.
“This is the last woman in the planet who would want to have committed a cop killing.”
In an emailed statement, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy reflected on the officer’s death and the sentencing of his killer.
“The most difficult days in my 33 years as a police officer have been when a colleague who devoted their life to protecting public safety is killed in the line of duty. It is a measure of comfort, even if bittersweet, to bring to justice the woman who murdered Officer Richard Francis. On behalf of the entire Chicago Police Department, I want to thank all those involved in bringing this offender to justice.”