‘Gun’ Sign Defendant In Court
Second Hearing Set For Strasburg Man
Posted: December 29, 2012
WOODSTOCK — A Shenandoah County judge on Friday scheduled a second hearing for the man accused of bringing a sign that read “High-powered rifle” into an elementary school just days after the massacre of 26 people at a school in Connecticut earlier this month.
Christopher Gerrit Johnson, 33, of Strasburg, will be back in court next month, when a trial date will be set. Judge Amy Tisinger in effect continued Friday’s hearing to Jan. 25 to give Johnson time to retain an attorney. She asked Johnson to retain counsel in time for that hearing.
Johnson was arrested Dec. 19 and charged with one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct after he attempted to enter Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg with the sign. Johnson’s actions that day prompted swift reaction from school officials already on edge since the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn., five days earlier. The Strasburg school has the same name as the one where the shootings took place.
Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley ordered a mental health evaluation for Johnson late last week. Johnson was briefly admitted to Poplar Springs, a treatment facility in Petersburg, before being returned to the Shenandoah County Jail this week. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell said Friday that a Temporary Detention Order, issued when people are deemed an imminent danger to themselves or others, was placed on Johnson.
Bell told Tisinger that the results of the evaluation indicated the accused did not have trouble with mental competency. Johnson’s health issues, he said, “seemed to be related to things like depression.”
Johnson indicated Friday that he intended to hire an attorney himself, but did not know exactly how to go about doing so.
“I’ve never had to ask for an attorney before,” he said. “I don’t even know how much attorneys cost for these types of things and I don’t have much money.”
Initially, Johnson was arrested and held without bond at the Shenandoah County Jail. On Dec. 20, a $2,000 secured bond was set, but then suspended in the wake of the mental health order.
Tisinger reinstated the $2,000 bond Friday, saying she thought it was an appropriate amount.
Conditions of Johnson’s bond require him to stay off the grounds of any school, and avoid contact with all employees and students of Shenandoah County Public Schools.
Johnson then asked if the requirements included his mother, Carol Johnson, who is employed by Shenandoah County Public Schools.
“You can talk to your mother. You can talk to her while you are at home, but not at [her] work,” said Tisinger.
Carol Johnson, an instructional aide at Sandy Hook Elementary, was present in court Friday.
“I’m going to post bail right now,” she said as the court proceedings ended.
Contact Kaitlin Mayhew at 574-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org