Justin Nail

St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputy Justin Nail (right), pictured with wife Jessica Drinkard Nail (left). Image from Facebook.

A police chase followed by a shootout turned Easter morning into a deadly scene Sunday morning near Goodbee, in western St. Tammany Parish.

Authorities said their pursuit of 24-year-old Joseph Walden Johnson Jr. ended after his car crashed into a ditch on Railroad Avenue between La. 1077 and U.S. 190.

At that point Johnson and pursuing St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office deputies exchanged gunfire. Johnson was killed and 36-year-old Deputy Justin Nail was wounded.

The pursuit started just before 5 a.m. when deputies attempted to pull Johnson over because they believed he was a suspect in some vehicle burglaries. Johnson refused to stop and fled in his vehicle before the crash and exchange of gunfire.

Nail — a member of the Third District Criminal Division — was taken to a local hospital, where he underwent surgery. He was out of surgery a few hours later and was listed in stable condition, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

An autopsy for Johnson, who is from Folsom, is pending, a spokesman for the Coroner’s Office said. Because he died in an officer-involved shooting, Johnson’s family has the option of having an independent physician witness the autopsy. The family is considering that option, which could delay the autopsy.

Nail is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, according to his Facebook page, which shows he served from 2000 to 2008. It’s not clear when he joined the Sheriff’s Office, but his Facebook page suggests he has worked for the office since at least 2011.

His shooting produced an outpouring of support from local public officials.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the sheriff's deputy that was gravely injured in the line of duty overnight. His bravery is an inspiration to us all. I ask all of our citizens, of all congregations, to pray for his speedy recovery, and comfort his family," said Parish President Pat Brister.

Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal and Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz also released statements calling for prayers. The Mandeville Police Department sent out a statement along the same lines.

Records show Johnson is a convicted felon, having pleaded guilty to four felony counts relating to drugs in 2012. He also was charged with eight misdemeanors in St. Tammany, including criminal mischief and resisting an officer during an incident on April 4, 2016. Johnson pleaded guilty to both of those charges.


Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.