The behavior of Bruce Randall “Zeus” Johnson II became increasingly erratic in the weeks before he was fired from a Tacoma barbershop on Wednesday. Four hours later he killed a Tacoma police officer and touched off an 11-hour standoff that ended with his death.
The man who killed Tacoma police Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez on Wednesday had been fired from his job at a popular Tacoma barbershop just a few hours earlier after his behavior became increasingly erratic, the shop’s owner said Friday.
Damon Daniels, who doesn’t cut hair but runs Sam & Terry’s Barbershop, said his two other barbers would occasionally call him to complain that Bruce Randall Johnson II — better known as “Zeus” — was trying to steal their customers and “wasn’t playing fair with walk-ins.”
Daniels would smooth things over, the barbers would make up and then it would happen again, with Johnson always the one causing issues, he said.
But in recent weeks, Daniels said Johnson, 38, proved unreliable in opening the shop on time and seemed to be acting bizarrely, once leaving a customer alone in the shop while he went outside to smoke, Daniels said. After waiting a half-hour, the customer left, but returned the next day for a haircut.
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The customer came back a couple of days later to get his hair re-cut because Johnson had done such “a horrible job,” Daniels said.
in mid-November, Daniels went to the shop to pick up some bills and found a shotgun shell in the bathroom. He took a photograph, then texted it to his barbers.
“I found out Zeus had brought a shotgun into the shop on his way to the firing range,” Daniels said.
He made it clear to Johnson that under no circumstances did he want firearms in the shop, and Johnson “had a bunch of excuses like he always does,” Daniels said.
Around the same time, Johnson was spotted at the Tacoma Mall wearing a hat that read “Sheriff’s,” carrying what appeared to be a soft rifle case over his shoulder and wearing handcuffs on his belt, The (Tacoma) News Tribune reported Friday. Mall security ordered Johnson to leave and police stopped his car a short distance from the mall.
Police found an unloaded 20-gauge shotgun in the front seat, the newspaper reported. He told police he was heading to the gun range and was afraid to leave his gun in the car for fear it would be stolen.
Tacoma police sent out a bulletin to all Pierce County law enforcement agencies, notifying them that Johnson was impersonating an officer, The News Tribune reported.
Daniels said Johnson repeatedly asked for more responsibility with the barbershop, so he gave him a shot by putting him in charge of opening. When Johnson was late on Monday and Tuesday, Daniels said he gave him one more chance to get the shop open by 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, Johnson called Daniels “and that’s where it went bizarre,” Daniels said.
“He asked, ‘Are we good?’ and I said, ‘We’re good if you open the shop on time,’ ” Daniels recalled. Then Johnson kept repeating, “God is good,” something Daniels said he’d never heard him say before.
“The phone dropped or he hung up” and didn’t answer when Daniels tried calling back.
On Wednesday, the barbershop was closed when Daniels drove by at 9:30 a.m., and was still closed when he drove by again two hours later. That’s when Daniels called Johnson and left him a message to drop off his key and pick up his stuff.
Johnson never called back.
Four hours later, Gutierrez, 45, was killed when he and his partner responded to a domestic disturbance at a home in the 400 block of East 52nd Street where Johnson was living with his family.
Johnson, who used his two children as a human shield, was killed by a police sharpshooter who fired into the home around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, ending an 11-hour standoff.
“To find out this person was involved, it just breaks my heart. I’m really pretty devastated by it,” said Daniels.
He said his father Sam Daniels, who opened Sam & Terry’s Barbershop in 1958 with childhood friend Larry Terry, was the one who decided to give Johnson a shot at cutting hair.
“He was down on his luck at some point and needed a second chance,” Daniels said of Johnson. Giving someone that kind of opportunity “was routine for my dad,” who mentored neighborhood kids and was well known in Tacoma, he said.
As part of the shop’s annual toy drive on Dec. 10, Daniels plans to collect money and match any donations for a fund to benefit Gutierrez’s family.
Gutierrez is survived by his three daughters and a granddaughter.