Nyssa reserve officer killed in weekend shooting, gunman being sought

By Staff (The La Grande Observer)
April 16, 2023 10:05 p.m.

An Eastern Oregon police officer was shot after being dispatched to a call about a violent individual damaging property and threatening others near a residence.

According to a press release from Malheur County District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe, Nyssa Police Department Reserve Officer Joseph Johnson, 43, was shot and killed Saturday, April 15, around 8:30 p.m. after the officer pursued a vehicle that eventually came to a stop.


“Officer Johnson learned the suspect had fled in a vehicle and began a pursuit through the city,” Goldthorpe said in the release. “When it appeared, the vehicle was stopping at the residence at the corner of Locust and 3rd Street N., Officer Johnson pulled off the road as well.”

Immediately upon making the stop, an armed subject, later identified as Rene Castro, began shooting at Johnson, who was fatally hit.


“There was no time to return fire before Officer Johnson was fatally hit. EMTs were on scene in record time, with the Malheur County Sheriff’s Department right behind, but Officer Johnson was already deceased,” Goldthorpe said in the release.

An Oregon State trooper arrived soon after and assisted a sheriff’s deputy in setting up a perimeter and questioning possible witnesses, Goldthorpe said.

Castro fled the scene immediately and has not been caught.

The Oregon State Police are heading the investigation, with help from the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office, Ontario Police and nearly every police agency from various departments in Idaho all the way to La Grande, including federal authorities. The law enforcement officers participating in the search include several OSP troopers from the Union County area, according to Capt. Dan Conner, of the La Grande OSP office.

“The appreciation, love, and concern of all citizens of Malheur County go out to the family of Officer Johnson,” Goldthorpe said in the release. “The Fallen Badge Foundation is accepting donations on behalf of the family.”

Johnson’s first job in law enforcement came in October 2007, when Snake River Correctional Institution outside Ontario hired him as a corrections officer, according to state records. The Nyssa Police Department hired him in August 2018 as a reserve officer. Johnson obtained an associate of arts degree from Treasure Valley Community College, Ontario, in 1999 and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2006 and a master’s degree in 2020.