2004-01-23 / Community

Trial Begins For Murder Of Local Football Star

By Brian Magoolaghan
Trial Begins For Murder Of Local Football Star By Brian Magoolaghan

Tommy JohnsonTommy Johnson

Thomas Johnson was a good student and a talented high school football player when he became a victim of violence in Rockaway in January of 2001. The trial of the young man accused of murdering him began in Queens Criminal Court this week.

Charles Sealey was 19-years-old when he allegedly drew a .380 semiautomatic handgun and fired off several shots – striking Johnson, who was 17, above his eye, killing him. Sealy, now 22, turned himself in three days after the incident. He is charged with second degree murder – a class "A" felony – which carries a punishment of up to 25 years to life in prison.

Sealey, who was "well known" by 101 Precinct police officers, has four prior arrests, one of which was for assault.

The violence that erupted on that winter day three years ago is another example of young men in Rockaway using handguns to resolve disputes, which Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has repeatedly condemned. Johnson had been trying to work out a dispute between his cousin and Sealey when the latter drew his weapon, police said at a press conference shortly after the shooting. The two men were separated by more than 100 feet when Sealey opened fire, according to police.

Standing-room-only funeral services and special services honoring Johnson’s life followed in Far Rockaway.

Christ the King Principal Michael Lynch, in 2001, said, "Tommy contributed much and made our high school a better place," of Johnson, who was reportedly recruited by Ivy League schools. Johnson – a star footballer at Christ the King – started throwing the pigskin at age 6, for the Far Rockaway Little League.

Christ the King recently dedicated a seat in Johnson’s memory in their newly renovated auditorium.

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