A 40-year-old Duval County Public Schools safety assistant was arrested after his district-issued service handgun was pawned, according to school district police.
James Richard Johnson was charged Wednesday with three counts of false verification of ownership to secondhand dealer, according to jail records.
His arrest reports says he took the .40-caliber Glock handgun to two different pawn shops over three months and was given $200 and $170 on separate visits as well as some smaller loans. He signed a transaction form stating he owned the gun, the report said.
“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,” School Police Director Micheal Edwards said. “We will never waver in enforcing those standards.”
Safety assistants are a new position in Florida’s schools following the Valentine’s Day campus massacre in Parkland and a change in state laws. The school safety law calls for districts and their neighboring law enforcement agencies to plan for police officers or other armed staff at each public school.
District officials would not name the school where Johnson was serving as a safety assistant “for security purposes.” But they do state that he reported the pawning to his supervisor while being interviewed by a School Police investigator. He signed a letter of resignation effective immediately.
Johnson advised the gun was pawned because he is having financial issues, according to his arrest report.
Officials also indicated he is married to John E. Love Elementary School Principal Niketah Johnson, although there is currently no evidence she was involved, School Police said.
Duval County will have 107 safety assistants who all undergo similar screening as police, including background and drug screening, a psychological exam, a polygraph test and interviews of neighbors and former employers. Once screened and hired, they get 200 hours of training, mostly from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. That includes 80 hours in firearms, eight hours of defensive tactics, eight hours of active shooter training, 12 hours on legal issues, eight hours on simulators, 16 hours on “precise pistol” use and 12 hours of diversity training, Edwards said in an earlier interview.
Superintendent Diana Greene said she was disappointed by the incident.
“The community needs to know that I will not tolerate the misuse of the district’s resources,” 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.”