Thomas Johnson, 21, was arrested Monday after the attack at White Rock Creek Trail at about 7:55 a.m., police said. The male victim, who has not yet been identified, died at a local hospital as a result of stab and slash wounds. He was not carrying any identification and appeared to be a white male between the ages of 25 to 35, police said.
Johnson, a Dallas native, left the Aggies football team in 2012 during his freshman season.
He is being held without bail, police said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say Johnson Picked the Victim at Random & Then Called 911 After the Attack
Police said at a press conference that Johnson apparently picked his victim at random. Johnson called 911 to report the stabbing after the attack.
Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin said Thomas Johnson admitted to the crime.
“It’s just very unusual. It’s quite shocking,” Sherwin told the Dallas Morning News.
Sherwin said Johnson had recently been kicked out of his home, and was angry about his situation.
A witness, identified only as Brandon, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that he came upon the attack while it was still happening, and saw the victim get hit six or seven times with a machete.
“As I get closer and closer I could tell it was a machete and there are repeated blows that are occurring. As I get closer, I could see what’s being hit is a person, laying face down on the ground,” Brandon told the news station. “It was apparent to me by the time I got close that there was nothing that could be done for the person. I heard a little bit of a yell from behind. I assume it was the guy with the machete yelling to stop. I just kept going and I just kept going.”
Sherwin also provided information about a separate homicide in Dallas. Zoe Hastings, 18, was found dead Monday morning after she was reported missing Sunday night. Police say a suspect in that homicide has not been identified.
2. He Left Texas A&M After Disappearing Mysteriously
Johnson disappeared mysteriously in November 2012 while he was in his freshman year at Texas A&M, according to an ESPN article from the time.
Police searched for Johnson for 48 hours, before he turned up in his hometown of Dallas.
“That’s an ongoing process right now,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said at the time. “I think he’s trying to decide where he is, if he’s coming back, if he comes back next semester, if he’s going to take the year off or if he’s going to transfer. In my conversations with him that’s where he is. He’s just trying to figure out what his next step is going to be.”
3. He Was a High School All-American & Made Highlight-Reel Plays During His Brief College Career
Johnson was an Under Armour All-American at Skyview High School in Dallas, according to his profile on the Texas A&M website. He was the third-ranked high school wide receiver in his class and a four-star recruit.
He played in 10 games with the Aggies before he left the team, catching 30 passes for 339 yards and a touchdown. He had three catches in his final game, an upset victory over Alabama.
His former college head coach, Kevin Sumlin, called him one of the best wide receivers in the country when he was a high school senior.
4. His Mother Said Last Year He Planned to Return to Football
The San Antonio Express-News tried to track down Johnson last year, and talked to his mother, who told the newspaper that her son planned to return to football.
“He told me he wants to play ball again,” his mother, Linda Hanks said. “Football is in his blood. It’s part of his DNA.”
She said, “Thomas is doing good — he really is. God has a plan for him. What happened at A&M? That’s just something in the past. That’s all it is — just something in the past.”
But, according to the Dallas Morning News, Johnson was arrested last year and charged with burglary of a habitation, auto theft and evading arrest after allegdly breaking into his aunt’s house. He was also accused of stealing her mini van and money. His aunt told police that he “had been causing problems in the family for a long period of time.”
He received probation, but the newspaper reported that prosecutors wanted to revoke his probation after he tested positive for marijuana and did not meet other conditions of his bail, including paying fees.
5. Police Provided Tips for Joggers, Walkers & Runners After the Killing
Police warned joggers, walkers and runners to use caution while exercising.
Northeast Patrol Division Commander Deputy Chief Andy Acord said in a Facebook post:
We lost a valued member of our community who was jogging the White Rock Creek Trail near the Walnut Hill bridge. The victim died as a result of a homicidal act. It was an unnecessary and tragic loss of life. First and foremost on behalf of the Dallas Police Department and more specifically the Northeast Division, I would like to extend our condolences to the family. Our prayers are with the family and their loved one during this time of grief.
The person responsible for the homicide was arrested immediately at the scene. This very unfortunate incident is the only act of violence on the White Rock Creek Trail that we are aware of and upon initial investigation appears to be a purely random act.
As for the safety of the trail, the Northeast Division routinely utilizes bike officers to patrol the White Rock Creek Trail on an on-going basis and will continue to do so. However, in light of today’s incident patrols will be stepped up to ensure the safety of the public. Officers will be diligent in their patrols. It is important to us that the White Rock Creek Trail remains a safe place for the public to enjoy their exercise routines and to feel secure while doing so.
Acord also provided the following tips:
* Do not work out alone.
* Advise someone of your workout times and route taken and check in with them when finished.
* Do not workout in deserted or dark areas.
* Have several different routes and rotate them.
* Check your workout route before you start.
* Get to know the neighborhood of your workout routes.
* Avoid bushes, doorways, and alleys during your workout.
* Plan safe locations on your route, well-populated areas where you can go to for help.
* Do not carry large amounts of cash or jewelry.
* Do carry personal identification, with an emergency contact phone number.
* Carry a whistle or some type of noise-making device.
* Stay alert and scan the area in front of you and avoid person(s) or situations that make you feel uneasy.
* Refrain from using earbuds or headphones that limit your ability to hear your surroundings.
* Every now and then during your workout check the area behind you.
* Be careful when people stop you for directions, always reply from a distance, and never get too close to a vehicle.
* If you think someone is following, change directions or go to your safe location.
* Carry a cellular phone when possible.
* Report suspicious persons or incidents to the police as soon as possible.
* Know the phone numbers to police and have them available.
* Know your location and make note of the 911 Pole Markers to assist first responders in finding you expeditiously.