Regional News

Reserve Police Officer Killed In Rural Eastern Oregon, Suspect Arrested

UPDATE: The man suspected of shooting an eastern Oregon police officer was arrested in Ontario, Monday morning. Oregon State Police SWAT, along with members of the FBI, Ontario Police Department, Malheur County Sheriff’s Office, and other agencies, surrounded a residence in Ontario at approximately 6:40 A.M. and began calling occupants from the home.  At approximately 7:40 A.M., Rene Castro exited and was taken into custody by OSP SWAT personnel.  Neither Castro nor SWAT personnel were injured during his arrest.

While the arrest has been made, investigators are still processing evidence.


NYSSA, OR -- A reserve police officer in rural eastern Oregon was shot and killed Saturday night, and authorities say the suspect is still on the run. According to the Malheur County District Attorney, 43-year-old Joseph Johnson responded to a call about a violent man threatening others near the town of Nyssa. The suspect was later identified as 36-year-old Rene Castro of Nyssa (pictured). 

The D.A. says Officer Johnson pulled over near a vehicle he believed was the suspect’s and was shot before backup arrived.

State Police, the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and agencies stretching from Idaho to La Grande responded to aid in the investigation, but Castro got away. If anyone has any information about his possible location, please call Malheur County Dispatch at 541-473-5125.

Officer Johnson was also an Oregon Department of Corrections employee, assigned to Snake River Correctional Institution. Governor Tina Kotek issued the following statement on Johnson's death:
"This is an absolute tragedy. I extend my sincere condolences to Officer Johnson’s family, friends, and the public safety community who knew him well," Governor Tina Kotek said. “Officer Johnson’s service and dedication to his community and our state will not be forgotten.”
Governor Kotek ordered flags at Oregon public institutions to be flown at half-staff until sunset April 17, in honor and remembrance of Officer Johnson’s sacrifice.
Officer Johnson is survived by his wife and two children. The Fallen Badge Foundation is accepting donations on behalf of the family. More information about the incident will be found here.
Senator Lynn Findley (R-Vale) and Representative Mark Owens (RCrane) released the following statement regarding the death of Nyssa Police Department Reserve Officer Joseph Johnson:
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Officer Joseph Johnson who was killed in the line of duty protecting the citizens of Nyssa. On the night of April 15, 2023, Officer Johnson was dispatched to investigate violent activity occurring in the Nyssa community. A pursuit ensued followed by an exchange of gunfire. Officer Johnson was struck and died at the scene.
Officer Johnson epitomized the spirit and service valued in eastern Oregon. Not only had Officer Johnson served as Reserve Officer for the City of Nyssa since 2018, but he dedicated his professional career to his community and to public safety by serving first as a Corrections Officer and then as a Behavioral Health Specialist with Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario.
Amazingly, Officer Johnson’s service to his community did not end there as he was also a mental health counselor, an Adjunct Instructor at Treasure Valley Community College, and a volunteer firefighter. When we talk of taking action to better your community, we should look no further than to the legacy of Officer Joseph Johnson.
More importantly, we express our deepest sympathies to Officer Johnson’s family, including his wife and two children, his friends, co-workers, and the Malheur County community as they mourn his loss.
The Malheur County community is lessened by the loss of a dedicated and hard-working public servant, Officer Johnson died a hero and his selfless sacrifice while protecting the community he served and loved should, and will, always be remembered.
Officer Johnson was the very best of eastern Oregon. Our sincerest thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

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