ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) -- We have a new perspective on Sean Johnson, the man accused of shooting the financial aid officer Tuesday at Stevens Institute of Business and Arts (SIBA) in downtown St. Louis.
Belete Mekuria came to St. Louis from Ethiopia 20 years ago. He's a taxi driver at Lambert International Airport. He had one of his most frightening fares a few years ago involving Sean Johnson, "I said, 'God this is the end of my life.'"
In October 2009, Mekuria said Johnson smelled of alcohol when he got into his cab. Mekuria kept a close eye on Johnson in his rearview mirror. Johnson pulled out a box cutter and slashed at the cabbie's throat. Mekuria recalls, "The moment it happened I just, I was I thought 'I'm dead.'"
As he fought him off, Mekuria lost control of his vehicle and smashed into the median on Interstate 70. Mekuria says Johnson was thrown into the front seat, "I twisted his hand. I take out his knife from his hand." With one hand, Mekuria called police and with his other hand he held Johnson down while he pleaded to be let go. The two men began to talk.
Mekuria said, "He said 'I don't have life. I don't have future. I screwed up my life.' That's what he's saying. What I told him was 'I'm not the one who screwed your life. Wy do you want to kill me?' He said, 'I don't care for others. I don't care for my life.'"
Johnson got five years probation. Had he gone to prison, the taxi driver thinks the school shooting may have been avoided. The cabbie is out $8,000 in damages to his taxi and medical bills. Although Mekuria was only scratched by the box cutter, he was hurt in the crash, "It was scary of course."
Mekuria is a spiritual man and while holding down Johnson he tried to convince him to turn to God for help in his life. At one point he said Johnson tried to cut himself with the box cutter.