Pageant winner Savannah Johnson shares her experience with gun violence


I never thought in a million years this story would be a part of my reality until July 26, 2019. When you’re a kid you always say your dad’s your hero. I mean it literally. I was supposed to go to work with my dad that night but he stopped me. We laughed, talked about life, and said I love you.I didn’t know that would be the last time I saw my dad alive. My dad (Sparky Johnson) and grandad (Steve Johnson) were working a regular days work when everything changed forever.

My dad was on the caller stand when a gunman ran to rob them. He was ready to shoot at anyone that stood in his way even if that meant taking two innocent people’s lives in the process. My grandad tried to fire but was too late and ended up getting shot. My dad saw what was happening and immediately drew his gun out of his pocket. He was yelling at people to run and find safety while he risked his own life going directly to the danger. He knew he would come face to face with a guy and a gun that would ultimately take his life. My dad’s gun fired two shots that missed and the third one got jammed. My dad physically and very violently fought for his life. He would ultimately lose his life fighting for it with his bare hands. My dad died trying to save his own dad’s life and trying to protect other people’s lives. The story doesn’t end there. It’s only the beginning. The gunman (Derrick Rivera) should have never even been out of prison. Rivera is a convicted felon. In 2010, he was charged with first degree burglary, second degree assault and battery, armed robbery, second degree burglary, and strong armed robbery. In September 2011, he was convicted on the latter two charges and sentenced to twelve years in prison but later got out on probation.

He was charged in April 2019 with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, unlawful carrying of a weapon, possession of a stolen gun, use of a vehicle without permission, and owning body armor by a violent offender. 

The part that set everything into motion, you could say, happened on May 23, 2019. Rivera was charged with four attempted murder charges. You would think murder, let alone four attempted murder charges, would be enough to stop him from being out on the streets. A judge let him out on those charges. He made bail the next day. I talked to the prosecutor on my dad’s case.With tears filled in my eyes I asked why. They told me “Sav, the system failed your dad and grandad.”

The system and the judge were created to help protect people from very dangerous people like this guy but instead failed to do just that. Being a family member of a victim and seeing the system firsthand I can tell you the system needs to change. The bail system needs stricter bail laws. A murderer, or attempted murderer for that matter, should not be able to get out on bond. Also, I think we should make a change with judges. Their job is life and death for some people and they should have stricter rules and accountability. In this case and so many other cases, the system or judge has failed a lot of innocent victims and people effected by their loss.

I hope with my platform, I can bring change with the bail system and hopefully bring change in this area. The victims deserve to have their stories heard. They deserve for people to hear their stories and bring change. We need to stand up for them. Stand up for the victims that can’t use their own voice to fight for them. They deserve change. They deserve to be seen and heard. I promised my dad I would fight for him and with my platform, I will fight for all the victims just like him that have lost their lives to gun violence. We can be the change if we chose to let our their voices be heard.