Alleged Crust shooter pleads ‘not guilty,’ case heads to jury trial

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John Lee Johnson (Courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
John Lee Johnson (Courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

A 22-year-old man accused of shooting a security guard during an altercation between two groups at the Crust restaurant in Williamsburg has chosen to have his case heard by a jury.

John Lee Johnson pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three charges stemming from an Aug. 27 incident, in which he allegedly fired a handgun at a group of people outside the Crust, located at 249 Richmond Road.

Police previously described the shooting as gang-related, although all gang charges have been dropped against Johnson and other men involved in the incident, court records show.

Johnson is charged with aggravated malicious wounding, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and shooting into an occupied building.

The jury trial is set for two days: June 15 and 16. Johnson’s attorney, Patricia Nagel, requested the dates in June to work around the schedules of two forensic analysts from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.

She said the analysts would be called as defense witnesses for the trial, but declined to comment further after the hearing on what items the forensic analysts would discuss in testimony.

Police believe Johnson fired multiple shots outside the Crust during a large party on Aug. 27, leaving a security guard with a bullet lodged in his lower back, according to court documents

According to several witnesses’ testimony, two groups of men got into an altercation on the front patio of Crust just before the shooting took place.

The altercation began inside the party, and the two groups were escorted outside. Both groups continued to yell loudly despite being separated, then shots rang out, witnesses said.

Six other men were charged in connection to the shooting at the Crust, including Jamel John Young Jr., 24, Kajound Devante Johnson, 22, Eric Ronald Anthony James, 25, Dominique Lamar Wallace, 23, Travis David-Mark Campbell, 27, and Malik Brown, 28.

All charges have been dropped against the six other men. Prosecutor Katey Fennig said during an earlier hearing all gang-related charges against the other men were dropped because prosecutors were having a hard time getting people to testify.

According to a motion filed by Nagel, Johnson, who will turn 23 on April 16, is not a member of a street gang and lives with his parents in Newport News.

On Wednesday, Nagel asked Circuit Court Judge Michael McGinty to reconsider bond for Johnson, stating the 22-year-old’s father has cancer and would like to spend time with his son.

The judge denied the bond request, but Nagel suggested denying bond relies on the presumption Johnson is an unreasonable danger to the public, although he has not been convicted for the alleged offense.

She also said the other men accused in the case were held without bond for several months, although their charges were eventually dropped and they were released.

“To hold people without bond based upon an allegation against them… that cannot be what the constitution stands for,” Nagel said.

Fearing may be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.

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