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Posted March 26, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Investigators took custody of guns after school incident

By Joe Beck

A top official with the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office confirmed Tuesday that investigators took custody of two guns from Christopher Gerrit Johnson after his arrest at Sandy Hook Elementary School Dec. 19.

Lt. Wesley Dellinger said the guns, a .22 caliber rifle and a .12 gauge shotgun, have not been linked to Johnson carrying a board bearing the words "high powered rifle" into the school. But he said they remain in possession of the sheriff's office while Johnson faces a charge for disorderly conduct.

The disclosure comes after Johnson's attorney, David Silek, criticized law enforcement and school officials Friday for their reaction to the incident. Johnson was arrested in the school's central office after he entered it with the board and met with school officials to talk about his reasons for being there.

Silek said Johnson's father took the guns from an outbuilding and gave them to sheriff's investigators when they appeared at Johnson's residence at 333 Junction Road, Strasburg on the same day of the arrest.

Dellinger identified the person who gave the guns to investigators only as a family member who had them in his possession at the time investigators arrived at the residence.

"I don't know why the family member went and got them. I haven't a clue," Dellinger said.

Silek said the family member is Johnson's father. He placed the guns in the trunk of a car after removing them from the outbuilding, Silek said.

The guns, Silek said, "were absolutely not connected to any crime."

Dellinger said no warrant was needed to take possession the guns or to conduct a search of Johnson's car. A search of the residence was conducted with the consent of another person who occupied it with Johnson, Dellinger said. No ammunition was confiscated, he said.

Dellinger said the guns were given to police for "safekeeping."

Dellinger said investigators also found two signs in Johnson's car but he was unsure of the message on them.

"It had something to do with amendments to the Constitution," Dellinger said. "I don't remember which [amendment] it was."

Asked why the sheriff's office is still holding the guns, Dellinger replied, "The case hasn't been closed, and it's up to the Commonwealth's Attorney or the judge whether they release them."

Johnson has claimed he meant no harm to anyone at the school when he entered it with the board, an act he defends as an effort to spotlight security weaknesses in the building.

A trial has been scheduled for July 12.

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

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