FRONT ROYAL – A town man hoping to stay free on bond didn’t get far when he tried to run from authorities and flee the Warren County Circuit Court on Friday.
Ray Martin Johnson, 34, of 112 Scott St., Front Royal, charged in Warren County General District Court with drug-related offenses, now stands accused of escaping jail by force, assaulting a law enforcement officer and destruction of property.
Deputies were escorting Johnson to the door near the defendants’ table, leading out of the courtroom to an area where defendants wait to be transported to the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail. Johnson, who was not handcuffed, looked toward the inside door used by the public at the back of the room and ran from the deputies through the swinging gate. A state trooper already in the courtroom for an unrelated hearing grabbed Johnson around the waist and tackled him between the gallery benches toward the inside door. Other law enforcement officers also tried to stop Johnson from going toward the door.
Johnson and the trooper fell forward and both struck the door. The trooper hit the door head-first, which made an audible thud. The impact broke the door bolt. Johnson moved toward the outer door but more officers rushed in and apprehended him.
“I didn’t do anything,” Johnson said as officers grabbed his arms to detain him.
Other deputies had come to the trooper’s aid, whose head was bleeding. The trooper appeared to suffer pain as he put his hands on his forehead. Deputies called for an ambulance, and a crew tended to the trooper’s injuries.
Eventually, deputies escorted Johnson, now in handcuffs, out the door to prepare him for transport to the jail.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Charles Brogan said Tuesday that state police confirmed a trooper suffered injuries during the incident but “is doing fine.”
Sgt. Brent W. Coffey, a public information officer with the state police, said Tuesday that the trooper was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.
Brogan noted that no deputies were injured in the incident.
“There’s always that risk that somebody’s going to be unruly in the courtroom,” Brogan said by phone. “We prepare for that, and we train for that.”
The incident happened shortly after Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. granted the prosecutor’s request to order Johnson held without bond.
A judge in General District Court early last week granted bond to Johnson after authorities charged the defendant with two counts of distribution of a controlled substance and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, all of which occurred in January, according to online records. Authorities arrested Johnson on June 13 and he appeared in court the next day, at which time the judge granted the defendant’s release on a personal recognizance bond. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond filed a motion to appeal the judge’s ruling on bond.
At the hearing in Circuit Court on Friday, attorney Jason Ramsey agreed to represent Johnson. The defendant testified that he has lived in Front Royal all his life and has a job in Gainesville. Johnson testified that he and his wife have four children with another one on the way. Johnson’s wife also testified on her husband’s behalf and noted that her high-risk pregnancy keeps her from working as her doctor has recommended bed rest.
Ramsey argued that his client does not appear to be a flight risk and has solid ties to the community. But Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Samantha Meadows cited Johnson’s criminal record and his current charges of drug distribution as reasons to have the defendant held in jail without bond.
Athey sided with Meadows and ordered Johnson held without bond.
Authorities arrested Johnson the same day of the alleged escape. Johnson is scheduled to appear on the new charges in Warren County General District Court on July 24.