Lockdown suspect entered West to ask teacher for college letter of recommendation

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File mug shot of Damian Johnson, who entered West High School armed with a pellet gun and knife. MPD
File mug shot of Damian Johnson, who entered West High School armed with a pellet gun and knife. MPD

MANCHESTER NH – Court paperwork filed following Friday’s probable cause hearing for Damian Johnson, arrested Sept. 25 after carrying weapons into West High School and triggering a lockdown, says the 21-year-old former West High School student had returned to see a school resource teacher for a college recommendation.

Johnson, of 261 Second St., Manchester, entered the school just before 8 a.m., allegedly with a gun tucked in his waistband. A West student who recognized Johnson as the father of her best friend’s baby, notified school principal Christopher Motika, who informed the school resource officer.

[See court affidavits below]

Motika called for a lockdown of the school, which means all classroom and office doors lock and no one can enter or exit. Police were notified.

As police entered the building and started searching, police dispatch received a call from West teacher Beverly Robie, who is a Jobs for America’s Graduates (NH-JAG) teacher. She called to say that Johnson was in her third-floor classroom, 313B.

According to police Johnson entered the classroom with a West student who had placed his gun – identified by police as air pellet gun, and a small knife – in her backpack, which she allowed him to do so he wouldn’t be arrested, according to the affidavit.

Robie told police that she knows Damian as a former student, and that he asked her if she could write a college letter of recommendation for him. School policy would require Johnson to check in at the office and wear a visitor’s pass, neither of which he had done.

In the meantime, another student in the class who had been looking at her Facebook page told the teacher that police were looking for Johnson.

Robie said at that point Johnson told her he didn’t want to go back to jail and asked that she not call police. Robie told Johnson that she didn’t want police to come into her room pointing guns at other students and that was why she needed to call the police.

Robie said that Johnson agreed, and that is when she called police.

The NH JAG program is in place in five New Hampshire schools, including West and Memorial High School. According to the JAG-NH website, it is a program that provides a mix of services that aim to keep students from dropping out of school, as well as preparing them for the world of work.

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According to the school district spokesman Andrea Alley, Johnson attended  West from 2009 until March 2011 before transferring to Memorial High School. He did not graduate from either high school.

West High School
West High School

When Manchester Police Det. John Cunningham entered Robie’s classroom he spoke to the female student who had accompanied Johnson to the room and questioned her as to whether she had a backpack. She told Cunningham she did not have a bag. At that time, Cunningham noted a black backpack near the teacher’s desk and asked her if it was hers. She said it was and then verbally agreed to allow Cunningham to search the bag, advising him that there was a gun in the bag.

Cunningham then asked if there was anything sharp in the bag, and the student told him there was also a folding knife that Johnson had put in the bag. The student told police that she had allowed Johnson to hide the gun in her pack so he wouldn’t be arrested.

As a result of the testimony, probable cause was found for the following charges against Johnson:

Criminal trespassing, for entering the school illegally; disturbance, for interrupting school by entering as a non-student; and falsifying evidence, by hiding a gun in a student’s backpack.

Johnson was ordered held on $20,000 cash/surety bail. He remained in Valley Street Jail as of Friday night, in lieu of bail, under a 72 hour hold due to his violation of probation. Conditions of his bail include refraining from possessing weapons, excessive use of alcohol and use of narcotics, and that he is not to go to, enter, visit or be within 100 years of West High School. He was represented in court by public defender William J. Schultz.

His next scheduled court appearance is Oct. 9.

Supporting affidavid for arrest without warrant for Damian Johnson by Carol Robidoux

Supporting affidavid for arrest without warrant for Damian Johnson by Carol Robidoux



About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!