LINCOLNTON – A local boy battling a rare disability experienced a dream come true May 21, when he was promoted to the rank of honorary detective by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
Landen Johnson, 9, was diagnosed with primordial dwarfism at the age of six months. Primordial dwarfism is a diagnostic category including specific types of profoundly proportionate dwarfism, in which individuals are extremely small for their age, even as a fetus.
In 2013, Landen was diagnosed with a specific form of the ailment known as Ligase IV, which affects an individual’s immune system. Johnson was one of just 11 children worldwide to be diagnosed with Ligase IV at the time.
“He’s in a lot of pain and he’s gone through a great deal in terms of all his medical procedures and so forth,” Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam said. “Somebody sent me a message on Facebook about Landen, talking about how he’s really interested in detective work and law enforcement, and we were glad to bring him in and show him the ropes. I passed the information along to my officers and they took the ball and ran with it.”
Landen’s infatuation with police officers developed several years ago, stemming from his introduction to The Andy Griffith Show, a 1960s television program about a widowed sheriff in a fictional North Carolina town.
“Landen became an Andy Griffith fan, so that’s when he and his brother started playing detective all the time,” said Luke Johnson, Landen’s father. “Then, one year for Christmas he asked for a police uniform, and it just kind of took off from there. Now he always goes up and talks to police officers whenever he sees them in public.”
Landen’s first day on the job as an honorary detective of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office was chock-full of police work.
“Obviously, when we told him about it, he was excited,” Luke Johnson said. “I don’t think he knew what to expect when we were getting him ready in his little police outfit, but the whole experience just blew us all away.”
Landen’s day started behind the desk inside his very own office, where he tried his hand at filling out paperwork on his computer.
“They showed us Landen’s office for the day and they even put a nameplate on the door for him,” Luke Johnson said. “He saw that and then he walked right in and sat down behind the desk and started typing away on his computer, acting like he was filing reports.”
While working at his desk, Landen received a call over the radio and was dispatched to a breaking-and-entering crime scene set up by the sheriff’s office staff.
“We ran outside and Landen jumped inside the police car with another officer,” Luke Johnson said. “They took off with the sirens blaring, so of course he loved that.”
Landen arrived on the scene and promptly started his investigation, which included taking photographs, marking items for evidence, conducting measurements and collecting fingerprints and DNA samples. Landen’s investigation helped him identify a suspect, whom he later located and apprehended.
“One of the ladies who works at the sheriff’s office pretended to be the suspect, so he handcuffed her and put her in the back of the car,” Luke Johnson said.
From there, Landen was dispatched once more, and when he responded to the scene he was able to operate one of the drones from the sheriff’s office to conduct a surveillance operation.
Upon arriving back at the station, Landen was presented with an honorary detective shirt, his nameplate and a crime scene investigation kit so he can practice his detective work at home. He ended his first day on the job by talking shop with his new coworkers over lunch.
“It was a full morning and just a great experience for Landen,” Luke Johnson said. “He was completely blown away by it, and even myself, who talked to them throughout the planning process, I didn’t expect for them to do all that they did for him. It was truly incredible. As parents, after all that he’s been through, it was special to get to see him just be a little boy for several hours without having to worry about all the stuff he’s dealing with.”