Suspect charged in rock throwing that caused brain damage

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PASADENA, Texas (KXAN) — Voicing words is still a challenge and walking requires a cane. Yet Kenneth Johnson’s face wears a smile much of the time. His mother, Barbara Goodwin, says the rock that came crashing through his windshield on June 14, 2014 may have taken a lot of things, but it did not take his personality.

She said, “If anyone comes into a room, he sits up and puts his hand out as if to say, ‘I am okay. It is okay.”

Kenneth suffered brain damage in one of the early rock throwing cases when they began two years ago.

In the two years since, the number of cases swelled to more than 90 while each day Kenneth has tried to take small steps forward towards recovery. But a big step was taken last week when Austin police announced the arrest of Pat Johnson, the suspect they believe is responsible for most of the cases which have plagued Interstate 35.

“The next day, Kenneth had a little skip in his step,” said Goodwin. “I know it took a lot off of him.”

Damage done to Kenneth Johnson's SUV the night of the rock attack on June 14, 2014. (APD)

On Monday, an additional charge was filed against Patrick Johnson charging him specifically with the Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon against Kenneth. An arrest warrant says Patrick Johnson called to report seeing Kenneth crash shortly after it happened, a pattern police say Johnson repeated often by calling 911 or sometimes returning to the scene shortly after tossing a rock into the oncoming lanes of I-35.

Goodwin hopes the charge is ultimately upgraded to attempted murder and Chief Art Acevedo said they would pursue such a charge.

“He could see how seriously he hurt [Kenneth] and he continued to do it,” she said.

The arrest warrant says Patrick Johnson’s roommate was interviewed by police and admitted to riding in the passenger seat when some of the rocks were thrown. Johnson would watch news reports about the rock throwing, according to the roommate. His demeanor would become “sad” when he saw the serious injuries caused to Kenneth.

The warrant quotes the roommate as saying Johnson did not think anyone would be hurt and that he prayed for Kenneth’s recovery. If so, those prayers mean very little to Goodwin.

“I do not believe that. I do not believe he had any mercy at all. Why would he keep doing it if he is praying for him?” Kenneth’s mother said.

Though possible prayers from Johnson were rebuffed, Goodwin and Kenneth expressed gratitude for the many prayers and support received from others including fellow victims. Goodwin said police were very helpful and kept them updated in their search efforts over the last two years. While talking about that support, Kenneth spoke up, carefully annunciating the words “thank you.” His mother said Kenneth is awaiting the opportunity to resume his rehabilitation, but has found a hobby playing poker and meeting new friends at the table.

They may be small steps, but steps his mother considers miraculous when you consider what happened to him on that night two years ago. She says Kenneth will keep taking those steps.

Likely with the familiar smile on his face. “I want him to be the best he can be and for him to able to live independently on his own. I know he will be able to do that.”

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