Family remembers slain son on eve of Monarch nightclub shooting trial

A trial is scheduled to get underway this week in Hennepin County District Court in connection to last year’s deadly mass shooting outside Monarch nightclub in downtown Minneapolis.

Authorities reported two were killed and eight others injured in a barrage of gunfire shortly after the bars let out in May 2021. One of those killed was University of Saint Thomas grad-to-be, Charlie Johnson who was out celebrating with friends on graduation weekend.

He was an innocent victim, struck in the back by a wayward bullet during the gunfire. The other alleged shooter was also killed. 

The Johnsons are dreading the murder trial ahead, including the expected photographs, videos, witness testimony and other evidence of the worst night of their lives.

"You want it to be done. You want justice to be served. Mostly you just want it to be over with the right conclusion," said Charlie’s father Greg Johnson.

Jawan Carroll is charged with a total of 9 counts of murder and attempted murder in the case. While in custody at the Hennepin County jail, Carroll was charged with assaulting a deputy for punching them in the face.

Several months ago, a jury acquitted Carroll in a separate, 2019 downtown Minneapolis shooting that left a woman injured.

The potential of a not-guilty verdict is a nightmare scenario for Johnson’s family who are seeking justice in the death of their 21-year-old brother and son.

Greg Johnson told FOX 9’s Paul Blume: "Every day, I do mental coaching saying, however the verdict goes, it doesn't change our life. Doesn't change the fact that we don't have Charlie anymore and we need to move forward with that loss. I don't know how not to be emotionally vested in an outcome. I don't listen to my own coaching very well."

The family said they have survived the last 17 months by focusing entirely on how the adventurous, free-spirited Charlie lived his life, not on the evil, senseless gun violence that killed him on the eve of his college graduation.

"It seems like even if he's not here right now, physically, but I think it is spiritually that he is here with every single one of us," explained Charlie’s mother Veronique. "It is having touched us that he somehow, has helped us moving forward."

Carroll’s trial was initially scheduled to begin at the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday, but it was delayed for several days. It is now anticipated jury selection will begin on Thursday, October 13. The Johnsons are expecting Carroll to argue his role in the shootout was self-defense.

"Charlie went out with his friends to celebrate that night with nothing but positive intentions. Other people put a gun in there, loaded a gun, put it in their pants and went into the city. They have different intentions," Greg Johnson concluded when asked about the potential self-defense claim.

The Johnsons meantime are extremely proud of the Charlie Fund they established at Saint Thomas to eliminate financial barriers for other engineering students to follow in Charlie’s adventurous footsteps in studying abroad.

"We've seen the impact it had on our children, certainly on Charlie and growing into be better people, better citizens, having empathy for the rest of the world," Greg said.

Earlier this year, the family traveled to Peru where Charlie had a senior year project he never got to see to completion, assisting local farmers on the ground.

There is a student garden and mural in his name there today.

The Johnsons are hoping to eventually bring the local coffee bean from that region of Peru to the Twin Cities market to help the economy in the South American country with proceeds here sustaining the Charlie Fund at UST.

Greg said, "The green beans are on their way to an importer here in the US right now. We just need to find a local roaster that will partner with us and bring this to life. A Charlie blend hopefully under a brand we're creating."