‘He died a hero’: Friends and family hold vigil for ODU student Paul Johnson

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Intelligent, kind, witty, and humble were just a few of the words friends and family used to describe 20-year-old ODU sophomore Paul Johnson.

"I loved him so much, more than I could even tell you," says Dan Johnson, Paul’s brother and close friend.

Early Sunday morning, Johnson, a math major at ODU, was brutally attacked less than a block from his apartment on 48th street. He later died at the hospital.

The suspects, David Grimm Jr., 21, and Christopher Johnson, 20, have both been arrested.

Johnson turned himself in to the Norfolk Police Department and has been charged with misdemeanor assault. He was released around 4:30 a.m. Monday morning on a $1,500 secured bond.

Grimm was arrested by the Prince William County Police Department and is being charged with 2nd degree murder. He is currently going through the booking process.

Wednesday night on campus, students packed together in the cold, with candles lit in memory and celebration of their friend.

"He had this unique sense of sarcasm and whit that will never be replicated. He would always use these stupid, silly phrases that were just hilarious,” says Joey Thiel, a friend of Paul Johnson’s, who organized a vigil on campus.

His fun-loving personality won't soon be forgotten. Paul's last good deed was donating his organs.

"He died a hero,” Thiel says. “While Paul will always be in our hearts and minds, he has also enabled others to live in his stead."

A memorial service for Paul will be held Friday morning in Northern Virginia. Christopher Johnson is scheduled to be in court for his arraignment in Norfolk Thursday morning.

The family of Paul Johnson has released the following statement:

"Paul was one of the cast of characters in our family, and we love each of them for who they are. We have always enjoyed every opportunity to share in their lives. Like a lot of other college kids, Paul was hard working and trying to pay his way through school. He was full of hopes and dreams and great expectations, and he had the ability to realize those dreams. As parents, we were very happy with the direction of Paul's life had taken at Old Dominion.

We really appreciate all of the people who cared enough to step forward and help identify the the two suspects, and we also appreciate how ODU and Norfolk Police briefed us every step of the way. We had no doubt there would be arrests in short order.

We underestimated what Paul meant to his friends, and the sincere compassion and outpouring from the student community was exponentially larger than anything I ever expected. This an international community, particularly where Paul lived and everyone who has come up to us and talked have genuinely cared about Paul, not just some appearance. I am so glad Paul had a chance to experience this environment."

Related Content:

UPDATE: Suspects arrested after fatal attack on ODU student near campus


  • DD

    If I am not mistaken at least one of the murderers is white..both of them were from Northern Virginia..I am sure there are some undesirables of all races around odu..

  • Debbie

    who cares about the color right now. I didn’t even see this mentioned. the fact is, a hard working young man died for no good reason and his family is mourning. let the race part go for a while and be considerate. my heart goes out to his friends and family. I can’t even imagine your pain.

  • Lisa

    My question is why were these two mugshots NEVER shown on the news? Did the media want everyone to think that the surounding neighborhood (mostly Black) produced such monsters that will do this to this poor fellow? Is it because the two are WHITE and they want the public perception to be that only Blacks will do something like this? Are they ashamed that it is two WHITE guys? What is the motive for hiding the photos from the televised news program? Yes, there are plenty of WHITE thugs – Wake up, America. One has to wonder.

    • Becca Mitchell

      The mugshots were not released until today because they were part of a photo line-up being shown to witnesses. Once they appeared in court, the mugshots were released to us to use. We were following rules, not making a decision based on race.

      • Lisa

        They would of had to interview witnesses PRIOR to having probable cause to make an arrest. There have been plenty of incidences were Black suspect’s photos were released to the public JUST on suspicion alone. I smell a rat in this case. AND, even after an arrest was made while the story was being broadcasted (meaning that they already had the probable cause), their mugshots were never posted to the public on the news – however, plenty of Black suspects photos are posted even if there is no proof to make an arrest or indictment. We are NOT falling for that excuse. Go Figure!

        • Becca Mitchell

          Again, we were following the requests of police. Any issues you have with the release of the mugshots should be taken up with them.

  • Lisa

    The police are who I was referring to – they are the catalyst to this evergrowing problem. The media are their alibi.

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