The case involving a man who carried a sign reading “high powered rifle” into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg in 2012 was dismissed earlier this week.
Christopher Garrit Johnson, 34, had been accused of disorderly conduct, but Judge James Lane, of Harrisonburg, dismissed the case with prejudice in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Tuesday, according to his lawyer, David Silek. In cases dismissed “with prejudice,” prosecutors may not re-file the charges.
The commonwealth could not meet its burden of proof, Silek said, noting that witnesses contradicted one another on the stand. The judge threw out the case before it went to the jury.
Johnson brought the sign into the school just days after the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at a Connecticut elementary school — also named Sandy Hook Elementary — where 20 children and six adults were killed.
Shortly after the shooting, school resource officers were stationed at each of Shenandoah County’s public schools. Silek claims Johnson’s goal was to bring security deficiencies to light at the school, where his mother works — a goal that was achieved when SROs were stationed at county schools. In the wake of the Connecticut shootings, however, security changes likely would have been implemented even without the incident at the Strasburg school.
“We had school safety forums after the incident at the Connecticut Sandy Hook and after the incident we had at our Sandy Hook,” Sheriff Tim Carter said. “I think we looked at the totality of what was going on in the country and what was going on locally.”
In retrospect, Johnson has said he should have handled the situation differently, Silek said.
Johnson lost his job because of the case, his attorney said, and claims he was never read his rights before his arrest. They are beginning to discuss a possible lawsuit against the county and certain individuals, whom Silek did not name.
“Someone must be held accountable for their actions,” Silek said. “The law is the law, and you don’t get to stomp on people’s Constitutional rights just because it’s fashionable to do so or in the heat of the moment.”