Crime & Courts

Joliet man goes to trial for 2017 shooting death

Jasper Johnson faces a charge of first-degree murder of his girlfriend

A jury will determine whether a man deliberately shot and killed his girlfriend more than four years ago at the Joliet apartment complex formerly known as Evergreen Terrace.

The trial of Jasper Johnson, 35, began Wednesday morning with opening statements from the prosecution and defense. Johnson was indicted on charges of first-degree murder and unlawful use of a .22-caliber revolver in connection with the fatal shooting of his girlfriend, 30-year-old Kia Johnson.

Prosecutors alleged that on June 5, 2017, Johnson shot his girlfriend while knowing such an act created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm. Johnson was initially arrested on a charge of involuntary manslaughter that was later upgraded to first-degree murder.

Will County State’s Attorney Britt Florin said Johnson made a “shocking decision” when he shot Kia Johnson in the head at close range in the living room of her apartment in Evergreen Terrace, which is now known as Riverwalk Homes.

Florin said Johnson admitted to drinking and smoking marijuana that day and said he had been arguing with his girlfriend when he picked up a revolver that he bought and knew was loaded with two bullets. She said Johnson pulled the gun’s hammer and trigger more than once.

Florin said Johnson knew firing the gun at his girlfriend would cause a strong probability of death or great bodily harm.

“He decided more than once to pull that trigger anyways,” Florin said.

Florin said Johnson knew he was not allowed to have the gun because of his criminal background. He was previously convicted of aggravated driving under the influence in Cook County.

Florin said Johnson gave several versions of what happened to the police and a lot of what he had said is contradicted by the physical evidence in the case.

Johnson’s attorney, Zack Strupeck, said the shooting was an accident, not a murder. He said Johnson had put on music, danced and played with the gun as if it were a toy. He said Johnson was surprised when he realized he had accidentally shot the “love of his life.”

Strupeck said Johnson ran to a security office at the apartment complex to call for help and he told police the shooting was an accident. Strupeck said Johnson expressed remorse for his actions because he realized playing with the gun was “the dumbest decision he ever made.”

“He didn’t want to shoot her,” Strupeck said.