Accused cop killer pleads not guilty

Bart Wayne Johnson (source WBRC video)
Bart Wayne Johnson (source WBRC video)

By Melanie Posey

COLUMBIANA, AL (WBRC) - Bart Wayne Johnson pleaded not guilty Thursday to killing Pelham police officer Philip Davis.

Extra security was on hand Thursday afternoon as Johnson arrived at the Shelby County Courthouse for his arraignment hearing.  He wore an orange jail jumpsuit and was shackled at the waist, wrists, and ankles.  He gave a slight smile to family members when he entered the courtroom.  

Johnson spoke briefly with his attorneys then sat between them as they heard the capital murder indictments charged against him.  Count one alleges that on the night of December 3rd, Johnson shot and killed Pelham police officer Philip Davis while Davis was on duty.  Count two charges that Johnson shot Davis from inside a car.  

Johnson pleaded not guilty to both.  

"I wasn't surprised by his plea," said Pelham Mayor Don Murphy after the hearing.  He was one of several spectators in the courtroom Thursday, along with Davis' wife, Paula, her parents, and several of Davis' colleagues.   

Also present were a handful of Johnson supporters including his wife and his brother, Bill, who wore his Trussville Police uniform.  It was Bill Johnson who picked up his brother on the night of the shooting and was allegedly taking him back to Pelham when they were arrested.  

After the hearing, Bart Johnson's attorneys asked the public not to rush to judgment.  

"Mr. Johnson is not an evil man," said his attorney Charles Salvagio. "If people think he is they don't know him.  He's a very, intelligent man, a professional person who understands what's going on and is handling this like a man."

When asked to discuss a motive in the case, Salvagio would not.  

"I don't want to get into that," he said. "All along, the public has looked at this as 'why,' some sort of puzzle.  But we know the answer to it. We're just not going to get into it."

Shelby County circuit judge Michael Joiner set a motions hearing for May 12th.  During that time, defense attorneys say they will enter several motions including asking for a change of venue.  They will also request a bond at that time.   For now, Johnson remains in the Shelby County Jail on no bond.

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