JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A school district police employee was arrested this week after authorities said he admitted to pawning his service weapon -- not once but twice.
James Johnson, who was a district school safety assistant, has been charged with false verification of ownership to a secondhand dealer -- meaning he lied about who owned his weapon -- and receiving goods under $300.
Johnson was scheduled to appear in court Friday but will be in court Nov. 8 instead. He is out of jail on a $7,500 bond. Authorities declined to release Johnson's mugshot, saying that as a Duval County School Police Department employee, he falls under the law enforcement exemption, even though he is a civilian.
Johnson’s wife, Niketah Johnson, is principal of John E. Love Elementary School. Officials said there is currently no evidence that she was involved in the incidents.
District officials declined to name the school where Johnson was assigned, citing security reasons. It was not the same school where his wife works. The Duval County School Police Department is coordinating security coverage at James Johnson's assigned school.
According to a release from the district, James Johnson was arrested around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Duval County School Police Department headquarters.
“It is always difficult arresting one of your own, but we have the highest standards for the conduct of everyone affiliated with our police department,” Chief Micheal Edwards said. “We will never waiver in enforcing those standards.”
According to his arrest reports, James Johnson, who was among the first armed guards trained to work at Duval County schools, told his supervisor he was having financial issues and pawned his department-issued Glock on two occasions at different pawn shops.
According to one report, he was given $250 for the weapon on Aug. 24 and then got another $50 from the same pawn shop on Sept. 8. The second report said he pawned his service weapon again at a different pawn shop on Oct. 5 for $230.
When he pawned the gun, he provided his thumbprint and signed a form saying he owned the firearm, the report said, but the weapon is owned by Duval School police.
News4Jax asked the district just how long James Johnson was on the job without his weapon while it was at the pawn shops, but officials have declined to comment outside of their news release.
News4Jax also asked about the possibility that someone had known about the incident and helped James Johnson before he came forward, but district officials said they could not comment on the active investigation.
James Johnson reported the pawning incidents to his supervisor and confessed to the charges while being interviewed by a Duval County School Police investigator, officials said. They did not indicate why he came forward.
James Johnson signed a letter of resignation effective immediately. News4Jax tried to reach him for comment after he bonded out of jail, but we have not heard back.
“While I am disappointed by this incident, the community needs to know that I will not tolerate the misuse of the district’s resources,” Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said. “This incident and the individual’s circumstances do not shake my confidence in the vetting process for our school safety assistants. This is an isolated incident that should not reflect on the process or on the people who serve in our schools.”
To be selected as a school safety assistant, an applicant must pass a background check, psychological examination, drug test, polygraph test and interview before entering training.
School safety assistants receive a total of 200 hours of training from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Duval County School Police Department before placement on a school campus. The training required to be a Duval County Public Schools school safety assistant exceeds requirements of state statute by 56 hours.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office conducts the training for the SSAs. JSO representatives declined to comment on James Johnson's arrest.
News4Jax asked if part of the training is explaining to the SSAs that they do not own their department-issued weapons, but we did not receive an answer.
The school safety assistants are hourly employees and make about $20,600 a year on average.