More details have emerged in the arrest of a fourth-grade Riverhead teacher allegedly caught driving drunk with a loaded .45 caliber handgun last week.
One of two felony weapons charges filed against Joe Johnson, 38, of Southampton came because of a prior criminal conviction, records show. Mr. Johnson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge on May 3, 1996 in Thomas County, Kansas, according to a criminal complaint filed in Southampton Village Court and acquired by the News-Review Friday.
Mr. Johnson was hired as a Riverhead teacher four years later, in 2000, and had been teaching this year at the Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside, district officials said, though he was removed from the classroom after his arrest last week.
The other felony weapons charge was due to the loaded, thirteen-round, high-capacity ammunition magazine inside the Springfield Armory XD semi-automatic pistol allegedly found in Mr. Johnson’s car, according to court records.
Mr. Johnson was stopped about 3:30 a.m. on April 21 on Hill Street in Southampton Village after police observed his 2008 Mercedes Benz swerving from the shoulder to over the double yellow line in the road, the records show.
Mr. Johnson told police he was coming from the Southampton Publick House after drinking an unspecified number of beers, according to a law enforcement source. He also refused a “chemical test” at the time of arrest, the source said, citing the police report.
Mr. Johnson was charged with two felony counts and one misdemeanor count of criminal possession of a weapon, driving while intoxicated and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, both misdemeanors. He lost his license after failing to appear in court to answer a traffic summons, the source said. He was processed and arraigned in Southampton Village Justice Court the same day of his arrest and released on $3,000 bail.
Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this week, Riverhead superintendent Nancy Carney said the district “will of course cooperate with the Southampton Village Police Department.”
“Mr. Johnson has been administratively reassigned to his home, effective immediately,” Ms. Carney said Tuesday. “Any further action, if and when appropriate, will be taken after the charges are addressed by the court.”
She could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
Active in the school district, Mr. Johnson has coached the JV Riverhead boy’s basketball team and was the keynote speaker of the annual “Say No to Drugs March” in June 2006.
Later that same year, he pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired, a traffic infraction reduced from a DWI, according to court records. He was fined $300 and had his license suspended for 90 days, court reports show.