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Classmate: Northside High School student's death should be a warning

Teammates serve as pallbearers for their friend Justin Patrick Johanson

Northside High students honor their Patriot baseball teammate and friend JP Johanson during his funeral at St. Luke United Methodist Church
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Northside High students honor their Patriot baseball teammate and friend JP Johanson during his funeral at St. Luke United Methodist Church

The sanctuary at St. Luke United Methodist Church in downtown Columbus was full of family, friends and other mourners full of sorrow and questions about the death of 15-year-old Justin Patrick “JP” Johanson, a popular Northside High School sophomore.

A Columbus Police Department report says JP was lying on River Road at the intersection with Bradley Park Drive before sunrise when a Kia Optima with a Florida license plate ran him over Sept. 4.

Why?

Five days after the Sept. 10 funeral, police provided at least some answers: 17-year-old Giovanni Montescarlos, a Northside student, was arrested and charged with purchasing alcoholic beverages for minors, making a false statement and writings, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, furnishing alcoholic beverages to persons under 21, possession of a false identification document and attempting to purchase alcohol by misrepresenting identity.

During the ceremony, Northside math teacher Karli Beason and students Hayes Allison, Branch Sheffield and Colton Joyner, along with principal Marty Richburg, described the impact of this loss.

“I never imagined that one 15-year-old boy would have touched so many,” Beason said.

“I wish I could have told him I loved him one last time,” Hayes said.

“To be honest,” Richburg said, “I don’t have the words. I don’t have the answers to this test.”

Branch admitted that he was reluctant to speak in front of so many people to eulogize his friend, but he realized JP would have teased him by saying, “You are too scared.”

He spoke in the same sanctuary where he met the magnetic kid with the “goofy” smile. Branch described JP as fun-loving but also compassionate. He liked rap music and put his cat in a stroller. When they played golf together, they walked every hole as they focused more on talking about life than their swings.

Colton, who played baseball with JP at Northside, asserted there must be a lesson in this death. Too many good people are making bad decisions, Colton insisted — and we must heed the warning.

“JP didn’t get a chance to grow,” Colton said, “so we’re going to grow for him.”

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