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Mental health check sought for defendant

Man accused of carrying 'rifle' into Sandy Hook Elementary School

By Joe Beck

Shenandoah County authorities are seeking a mental health evaluation for a Strasburg man arrested Wednesday at Sandy Hook Elementary School while carrying a 2-by-4 board with the words "high powered rifle."

Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley said late Thursday she was waiting for a judge to sign off on an evaluation order for Christopher Gerrit Johnson, 34, of 333 Junction Road. He was charged with disorderly conduct and booked into the Shenandoah County jail after his arrest at the school.

Jail authorities made a routine initial assessment of Johnson's mental state upon his arrival at the jail and determined that he should receive a fuller evaluation and possible treatment under the auspices of Northwest Community Services, Wiseley said.

Johnson remained held in the county jail without bail as of late Thursday, Wiseley said.

Deputies arrested Johnson after he ventured into Sandy Hook Elementary School carrying the board around 11:40 p.m.

Johnson's exact motives remain unknown, but sheriff's office investigators believe he was trying to communicate a message about school security.

Sandy Hook Elementary School shares the same name with a school in Newtown, Conn. where a gunman killed 26 students and teachers last week.

Authorities say Sandy Hook school officials encountered Johnson after he walked through an unlocked front door and entered the school's central office. Principal Melissa L. Foltz took him into her office and closed the door until law enforcement officers arrived, according to law enforcement reports.

Authorities say Johnson had no actual weapons with him and offered no resistance during his arrest.

Authorities also say Johnson had no contact with any students, and classes followed their normal schedule throughout the day.

Law enforcement officials had little information to disclose about Johnson's background Thursday. Court records show he was charged with four minor traffic offenses involving a seat belt violation, an illegal vehicle inspection sticker, failure to obey a highway lane marker and operating an uninspected vehicle. The cases listed from a period running from 2004 to 2010.

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


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