This is the fifth installment of The Collegian's UR Employee Spotlight Series. The series tells the stories of University of Richmond staff members who tirelessly help students and work behind the scenes to better campus life.
A four-car pile-up blocked all lanes of Interstate Highway 95.
Officer David Johnson had been called to the scene and he raced down the shoulder toward the accident. He soon noticed another car had chosen the same route.
Johnson expected to find a frustrated commuter trying to get somewhere. Instead, when he pulled the car over, he found a pregnant woman in labor on the verge of delivery. He wasn't anticipating delivering a baby that day, but one thing he’s learned in the years since is that you can’t predict everything.
Johnson was a Virginia State Trooper for 30 years before joining the University of Richmond Police Department five years ago. Johnson currently works in the patrol department for UR.
His favorite story from his 35 years of work is that day on I-95 when he had to do something drastically outside his area of expertise — deliver a child on the side of the road.
“That story is truly amazing, and I received an award and a few interviews for my action that day.” Johnson said. “But I still find my work on this campus to be equally as rewarding as what I did on the side of that highway.”
Communications officer Nick Myers said he constantly applauds Johnson for what he adds to the department in terms of both work ethic and personality.
“Johnson brings something few state police departments have," he said. “I have never heard a negative comment about him. Everyone he meets has something positive to say about him and his work ethic. He brings great personality to this department.”
As a patrolman, Johnson is responsible for providing security and protection for students and the campus as a whole.
“I really love working with the students here," Johnson said. “Since I have been here for five years, I have gotten to see students grow.”
Nicole Murillo, first-year, said that after orientation, she had been a bit skeptical about how intense the presence of police officers would be around campus. She and Johnson met when he was helping students get home after a lodge. After a short but memorable conversation, her view on the department changed drastically.
“I realized that the department and Officer Johnson in general were not there to get us in trouble, but to just make sure that all students are safe at all times,” said Murillo. “Officer Johnson emulates the mission of the police department in a manner that you cannot replicate.”
As a father of four girls, Johnson said he personally understood the minds of college-aged students.
“You get in a few situations when you have to discipline students, which is always hard," Johnson said. “We are not looking to arrest people for crimes or get people in trouble. But, when you have to discipline students, many of them come back and thank me for keeping them safe. That really hits me.”
As a true example of what the UR police department looks to accomplish on a daily basis, Johnson provides security and protection for students, faculty and staff with a beaming personality and a strong work ethic.
“This community is like a family," Johnson said. “Families look out for each other and make sure that everyone is safe and on the right path. That is what I am here for. I am here to protect this family that is made up of the campus as whole.”
Contact features contributor Caroline Queally at caroline.queally@richmond.