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Cuffed defendant bolts court hearing

Visitor cuts short dash for freedom on firearms charge

Johnson

– A bailiff pulled a gun on him and a defense attorney tried to tackle him but it was the actions of a passing Courthouse visitor that ended a man’s brief attempt at escape Friday morning.

Daniel P. Johnson, 22, of the 300 block of West Suttenfield Avenue, was in Allen Superior Court before Judge Wendy Davis to be sentenced on a felony charge of pointing a firearm.

Johnson was arrested in December after a fight with another man in which he brandished a gun and pointed it at the man, in front of numerous witnesses, including small children, according to court documents.

He pleaded guilty to the charge in June and in exchange for the plea, an additional charge of criminal recklessness was to be dismissed at sentencing.

He faced six months in prison and a year on probation, according to court documents.

But Johnson did not cooperate with the probation department, failing to appear to participate in a presentence investigation.

So when he came to court Friday, the court was not prepared to sentence him.

Johnson said he wanted to withdraw his plea, Davis said. So she ordered him taken into custody and reset the sentencing hearing for next week.

But as the court session was winding down, a handcuffed Johnson jumped out of the jury box and tried to flee the courtroom, officials said, breaking the wooden gate at the bar and running through the tackle of a defense attorney who was still in the room.

An Allen County police officer pulled his gun and ordered Johnson to stop, witnesses said, but Johnson got to one of the side doors where he was tackled by a civilian court staff member and John Lydon, who is in his 60s.

Police officers were converging on the room after Davis pushed the panic button, and an angry Johnson was taken into custody at the doorway.

Lydon, a mail carrier, is a friend of new Allen Superior Court Judge Craig Bobay and had come up to the third floor of the Courthouse to offer congratulations.

Lydon said when he heard a woman screaming, he decided to get involved.

“I got in front of him and slowed him down,” he said. “I had to do something.”

Lydon suffered a cut on his right hand and was treated at the Courthouse.

Sheriff Ken Fries praised Lydon and his officers for their quick actions. Many of the sheriff’s officers in the Courthouse are relatively new to the force, he said.

“We deal with difficult people every day at the Courthouse,” Fries said. “This is a prime example of why we need police officers in the Courthouse.”

Davis also praised the quick actions of those involved.

“We have detailed procedures in place between the judges and the sheriff’s department to handle these types of situations when they do happen,” Davis said. “We all followed those procedures today, and thankfully the situation didn’t present a worse outcome.

“I am always amazed at the quality of citizens we have in our community. The civilians and lawyers that were involved were amazing.”

No information was available Friday afternoon about what, if any, additional criminal charges Johnson may face.

rgreen@jg.net

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