TOWNSEND (CBS) – The black bunting is at the Townsend Police Department as the town copes with their loss.

One of their police officers, who just retired, and his wife were killed by a driver violating the law.

Sergeant John Johnson spent his career with the Townsend Police Department and recently retired.

Late Thursday night, police said a wrong-way driver killed Johnson and his wife, Heidi.

State Police say Ryan Kittredge of Derry made a u-turn in pickup truck on Route 101 just before the crash. (Photo credit: Epping, NH Fire Dept.)

“He was a great guy, always doing stuff for the community,” said Inga Breault, who like many in town knew Johnson for decades. “Unfortunately, 40 years on the department to have this happen, it’s just awful.”

The crash happened on Route 101 in Epping, NH. Police believe the driver of a pick-up was impaired – that driver made a U-turn into oncoming traffic slamming into the Johnson’s Chevy Impala.

“He did just about everything that had to be done in this police department,” said Townsend Police Chief Richard Bailey. Johnson used to specialize in accident reconstruction. He would be called to horrible crashes like the one that took his life.

But, his name also brings up fond memories of his annual gig as chef at the seniors BBQ.

Sgt. John Johnson. (Photos credit: Townsend Police)

“Forty years of his life to serve this community and he was a great guy,” said a resident who dropped off flowers.

Those Johnson touched left flowers outside the department. Inside his fellow officers created their tribute. Johnson retired in July and he was still a reserve officer.
“It’s just a tragic event that happened last night, so short after his retirement,” said Chief Bailey.

Johnson and his wife lived in New Hampshire where friends say he helped raise Heidi’s kids. But, part of his heart was always in Townsend and he will remain in theirs.
“He’ll be missed. John will be missed,” said Chief Bailey.

The wrong-way driver, Ryan Kittredge, 31, is in the hospital.

About four years ago, he was found guilty in a DUI case. Police are working on filing charges in this case.

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