PARKERSBURG - A man who was shot by Parkersburg Police officers two weeks ago made his first local court appearance since the incident Thursday.
Christopher Paul Johnson, 42, of 2503 1/2 Lincoln Ave., Parkersburg, was brought into Wood County Magistrate Robin Waters' courtroom in a wheelchair for a preliminary hearing that he and his court-appointed attorney waived in exchange for early discovery. He'd been before the magistrate a few months prior on a charge of driving on a license suspended for driving under the influence.
"Hello sir," Waters said. "Hadn't been that long ago you were in here."
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Christopher Paul Johnson, seated, is pushed into a Wood County Magistrate courtroom Thursday afternoon by Tom Allen with the Wood County Holding Center. Johnson was shot by Parkersburg Police on July 15 after allegedly pointing a gun at an officer and refusing to lower it.
On Thursday, Johnson was facing felony charges of two counts of wanton endangerment, based on his allegedly pointing a gun at two Parkersburg Police detectives on July 15 in separate stops that ended with him being shot at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Plum Street. He's also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and a count of conspiracy to deliver marijuana, the charge for which detectives originally stopped him.
Before the start of the hearing, Johnson, who was coughing through a tracheotomy tube in his throat, asked the holding center officer who brought him in to remove his handcuffs. He repeated the request when asked to sign a document acknowledging he was waiving his right to a hearing.
"Hey, Ms. Waters, can he take these off of me?" Johnson said, holding up his hands.
Waters allowed one cuff to be removed, so Johnson could sign the document and better use a Kleenex.
Johnson's attorney Eric Powell said an agreement had been reached with the prosecutor's office to waive the preliminary hearing. In return, he would get an early look at the state's evidence against his client.
"Essentially he would get a copy of the witness statements, the officers' statements, that sort of thing," Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure said.
The case now awaits presentation before a grand jury.
According to a criminal complaint filed with magistrate court, Johnson was in his vehicle in the 700 block of Bird Street when he was approached by three Parkersburg Police detectives. When Lt. Greg Collins tried to speak to him, Johnson allegedly got out of his vehicle and pointed a gun at the detective from seven or eight feet away.
As Collins tried to get Johnson to drop the weapon, the other detectives attempted to get bystanders to a safe location inside their home. The complaint says Johnson "made several statements to the officers that he did not want to go back to jail and that they just needed to let him leave."
He did depart as the officers retreated to a covered position behind their cruiser, the complaint says.
Johnson was spotted minutes later by Patrolman M.L. Bosley on Plum Street. Bosley initiated a traffic stop, and Lt. G.D. Nangle stopped his car in front of Johnson's.
The complaint says Johnson got out of his vehicle and brandished the gun at Nangle, refusing orders from both officers to drop it. Nangle and Johnson opened fire, striking Johnson at least three times.
He was taken to Camden Clark Medical Center's Memorial Campus before being moved to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.
Johnson was kept under guard by the West Virginia State Police until his release from the hospital on July 24. At that time, he was arrested and taken to the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County.
Johnson's $850,000 bond was not changed during Thursday's hearing, and he was returned to the regional jail afterward.
Nangle and Bosley remain on administrative duty as the State Police investigation and an internal review by Parkersburg Police continue.
"We should have ours finished up by the end of next week, I hope," said Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, who has previously stated he believes the officers acted appropriately.
Regardless of the findings of the investigation, the case is expected to be presented to a grand jury. Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton has said that is his policy in incidents involving law enforcement officers.
Another Parkersburg Police detective was cleared by a grand jury last month in the fatal shooting of a suspect who drove his car at the officer outside the Grand Central Mall in January.