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Posted December 28, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Accused Sandy Hook intruder free on bail

By Joe Beck

A man accused by authorities in court documents of "causing fear and panic" at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg left the Shenandoah County Jail Friday free on a $2,000 cash bond.

General District Judge Amy Tisinger set the bond for Christopher Garrit Johnson, 33, of 333 Junction Road, Strasburg, and ordered him to stay away from all property and employees of Shenandoah County Public Schools, except for his mother, who attended the hearing. She said after the hearing that she is an instructional aide at Sandy Hook. She declined to give her name.

Tisinger said she would allow Johnson to interact with his mother only off of school property.

Johnson was arrested Dec. 19 at the school after appearing in the central office with what law enforcement officials described as a 2-by-4 board bearing the words "high powered rifle" on both sides. He is charged with disorderly conduct.

Johnson's arrest came days after a gunman barged into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and fatally shot 26 educators and students before killing himself.

The criminal complaint against Johnson states that he "claimed he was there to protest the school's security. His actions caused fear and panic among school staff and administration."

Johnson appeared in court wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit with the handwritten words "the last ride" appearing on the back below the collar.

Johnson told Tisinger he wanted to hire his own attorney, but was unsure if he could afford one.

"I don't know how much an attorney is going to cost," he said. "I don't have much money."

Friday's hearing came after a temporary detention order signed by Judge William H. Logan Jr. the day after Johnson's arrest. The order lifted the initial bail set for Johnson while he underwent a mental health evaluation at the Poplar Springs Hospital in Petersburg.

The order also called for the bail to be "reinstated immediately upon notification by Poplar Springs Hospital to the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office that the defendant no longer requires in-patient treatment."

In response to a question by Tisinger, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Bell said the temporary detention order and mental health evaluation appeared unrelated to Johnson's ability to stand trial.

"It didn't seem to be a competency issue," Bell said. "It seemed to be an issue of acute anxiety-depression."

Bell added that the information he had received about Johnson's mental condition was "second hand."

Tisinger said that she was resetting bail at the same $2,000 imposed before Johnson was transferred to Poplar Springs. The bail conditions forbid Johnson from possessing guns and included a requirement that he follow treatment recommendations of mental health providers.

Tisinger set the next court date for 9 a.m. Jan. 25 to discuss Johnson's progress in hiring an attorney.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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