June 2, 2011
Justin Johnston was an exceptional, outgoing and charismatic 16-year-old youth who cared about helping others. He made our days brighter with his free and lighthearted spirit, personable smile and ever present “thumbs up”. Baseball was his passion and he was serious about his Catholic faith. Justin had planned to attend the University of Kansas with the desire to study forensics, criminal law, or police work. He made an indelible impression on all of our hearts until the morning of June 2, 2011.
Justin and his high school Spanish class left for Costa Rica on May 30, 2011. The trip was booked with EF Tour company and was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime and supposedly safe. Tragedy struck a few days later while the group was staying in the city of La Fortuna de San Carlos. Justin and another student were heading back to their hotel room when Justin was fatally shot by a hotel security guard. We found out later that the guard who shot Justin was actually an illegal immigrant from Nicaragua with no security training, no uniform and no license to possess a firearm. How could this happen? A Costa Rican court convicted the guard of homicide with 15 years in prison. It has been appealed with a new trial issued. No date has been set yet.
We had hopes that the court’s decision would send a strong message to the hotel and tourism industry in Costa Rica to comply with the laws designed to protect the safety and welfare of both tourists and citizens alike. We want to prevent another senseless act causing death. We hope no other parent will experience the anguish of losing a child on an educational trip abroad. Justin’s death was caused by failure to comply with basic laws.
ClearCause gives us a chance to make a difference. Parents need to be aware of tour companies’ safety records before sending their kids abroad. Federal laws need to be created to hold the tour companies responsible to protect our students. Safety is NOT an accident.
Justin will remain in our hearts and our lives as a divine and powerful influence.
Wendi Johnston, Justin’s mother