Man convicted of murdering Holliston police officer granted parole

The family and department are both frustrated by the decision

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A man convicted of murdering a Holliston police officer 42 years ago has been granted parole. This decision was met with a scathing response from the town’s police chief who tried to prevent it from happening.

Anyone who walks into the Holliston, Massachusetts, Police Department, will see the impact of the loss of one of their officers. Display cases in the lobby contain various pictures of Officer John Johnson and news clippings detailing his murder in 1981. The training room located to the right of the lobby is named in honor of Johnson, displaying his portrait and an American flag flown over the United States Capital in his memory, besides his name front and center.



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“We’re minded every day about his sacrifice,” said Officer Jim Garrett.

August 13, 1981, Officer Johnson, a six-year-veteran of the Holliston Police Department, was on patrol when he spotted a car reported stolen from Natick. While chasing one of the suspected robbers, Johnson was shot and killed with his own service weapon—once during the struggle, twice while he was on the ground, according to police.

He was 31 years old, married with two young children, ages 10 and 3.

“He didn’t have that chance to live his life and raise his family and see his grandchildren. It’s sad,” said Holliston Police Lt. Chad Thompson.

Rolando Jimenez, then 22, was arrested after a three-hour manhunt involving over 100 police officers from surrounding communities and the State Police. Jimenez was convicted of second-degree murder, sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. He was also convicted of larceny of a stolen motor vehicle.

At that time, Jimenez denied shooting Johnson, stating that after the officer grabbed him and was on top of him, he heard three shots, checked himself to see if he was shot, saw the officer fall to the ground, became afraid and ran through the woods until he was arrested, according to Massachusetts Parole Board records. A forensic pathologist testified at trial that Johnson was shot in the chest, abdomen and thigh, and that based on his examination, the gun would have been fired from not more than six inches from the body. He noted it would have been very improbable that the abdominal wound could have been sustained in the manner described by Jimenez.

Jimenez has served over 41 years in prison. He is now 64 years old.

On July 31, 2023, the Massachusetts Parole Board issued a decision following Jimenez’s Parole Board hearing in March of 2022, granting him parole. The board wrote, “He has participated (in), and appears to have benefitted from, rehabilitative programs…He has not had a sanctioned disciplinary report in 20 years. (The) Board also notes he has significant health issues, including recent history of prostate cancer.”

In a media release, posted on the Holliston Police Department Facebook page, Chief Matthew Stone wrote, “As a police officer, as a human being and as your Police Chief, I am disgusted with the Parole Board’s decision to grant Inmate Jimenez parole.”

Stone testified at Jimenez’s March 2022 parole hearing in opposition of his release.

“The murder of Officer John Johnson was not an accident. It was not a mistake. And it was not a lapse in judgment by Rolando Jimenez. This was an ambush. This was violent. And this was a murder of a police officer. No time in prison, no educational classes, and no rehabilitation program can undo what Rolando Jimenez did on that dreadful August evening nearly 42 years ago. Inmate Jimenez not only murdered the patriarch of the Johnson family, but he terrified a community that still affects many of us today,” wrote Stone.

Jimenez was denied parole five times following prior hearings in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014, and 2019. During his Parole Board hearing in 2019, he apologized for the pain and suffering he caused and took full responsibility for the death of Officer Johnson, according to the Parole Board decision document issued in 2020.

However, when questioned about the events leading up to the murder, Jimenez explained, through a Spanish-language interpreter, that he and Officer Johnson became engaged in a struggle, during which time “a shot was fired,” followed by three more shots. The document states the Board attempted to clarify if Mr. Jimenez meant that the gun fired accidentally, or if he had shot Officer Johnson intentionally. Jimenez reportedly responded that “during the struggle [he] pulled the trigger four times.” He explained, “I am responsible for resisting arrest, if it was an accident, or if it wasn’t an accident.” In their 2020 decision, the Board wrote, “Although, he has engaged in treatment/programming, he lacks candor as it relates to the offense. The Board remains concerned as to the varying versions that have been presented at prior hearings.”

The 2014 Parole Board decision included details about Jimenez’s criminal history:

“Rolando Jimenez’s criminal history began at 15 years old in Puerto Rico when he was caught selling marijuana. It continued after he arrived in Massachusetts in 1977. His history of violent behavior dates back to July 1979, when he was arrested for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault to kill for beating a man with a golf club. After trial, he was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and sentenced to a three month commitment followed by a two-year period of probation. The trial judge suspended the imposition of the sentence and allowed Jimenez to drive his wife back to Framingham and then return to court in the afternoon for imposition of the sentence. Jimenez, however, never returned and a warrant was issued. On June 10, 1981, while still on warrant status, Jimenez and two of his associates robbed a gas station (at gunpoint) in Ashland.”

The attendant was stabbed by one of Jimenez's associates and survived, according to the Parole Board account. It also states that Jimenez incurred 11 disciplinary reports during his incarceration, which included assault on an inmate in 1985, and assault on a correction officer in 1986.

The parole board decision reports list a number of programs that Jimenez participated including Mental Health Therapy Group, Alternatives to Violence, Jericho Circle, Emotional Awareness, and Jericho Circle which provides training and mentorship to incarcerated people and returning citizens. He also completed his GED and participated English as a Second Language classes.

In 2019, he told the board that these programs taught him about truthfulness, overcoming anti-social behavior, and victim empathy.

Jimenez was represented by the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project. NBC10 Boston requested comment from the legal team but did receive a response.

In a statement, Johnson’s family said, “We are very surprised and disappointed by the board’s decision to grant parole at this time. Our hearts go out to the HPD and police officers everywhere who are understandably upset. We understand we cannot appeal this decision and all we can do is come together as a family and community. Thank you for your support during this difficult time.”

“I hope that they haven’t lost faith in the system and that our support for the Johnson family is unwavering,” said Garrett.

Under the conditions set by the parole board, Jimenez must spend six months in a lower security prison before he is released. He will also be subject to electronic monitoring, a curfew, drug and alcohol testing and mental health counseling.

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