Charge could be dropped against school safety assistant in gun pawning case

Ex-Duval County School Police employee goes into pretrial diversion program

By Frank Powers - Assignment manager

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A former school district police employee who was charged with lying to a pawn dealer when he pawned his service weapon -- twice -- has been referred to a pretrial diversion program.

If James Johnson, who was a Duval County school safety assistant, completes all the terms of the program, the charge against him would be dropped.

Johnson, who resigned after his arrest, was charged with false verification of ownership to a secondhand dealer -- meaning he lied about who owned his weapon -- and receiving goods under $300.

Johnson 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.

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.

Two other school safety assistants have since resigned in connection with the incidents.

A group of parents is suing over Duval County's school safety assistants program, saying the program does not properly implement the law passed by the Florida Legislature this year following the Parkland school massacre. One of the contentions of the lawsuit is that by Florida law, no one can carry a weapon on a school campus unless they are a sworn law enforcement officer, which the school safety assistants are not.

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