Drug use suspected in death

An autopsy is pending, but Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said it is possible that drugs caused the death of a Statesboro man who went on a nude rampage in South Augusta on Saturday.

Chris L. Johnson, 28, died at Medical College of Georgia Hospital after the incident in which he attacked several people and jumped headfirst into a car windshield.

An autopsy is scheduled this morning.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has taken control of the case at the request of the sheriff's office because Mr. Johnson died in police custody, Sheriff Strength said.

A call to Gary Nicholson, the special agent in charge at the GBI's Thomson post, wasn't returned Sunday.

At about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, a witness in Minor Place heard growls coming from a ditch near his driveway. The witness told police that when he turned around, Mr. Johnson was on the ground.

"He said (Mr. Johnson) was crawling like he was an animal or something," Sheriff Strength said.

Mr. Johnson then stripped off his clothes and attacked a man across the street, the sheriff said. The man was forced to beat Mr. Johnson with a board to get him away.

Other witnesses said they saw Mr. Johnson beat two parked vehicles, one with his head. He also attacked a man on Stevens Road who hit him in the chest with a toolbox, Sheriff Strength said.

"It appears maybe he was strung out on something, but we won't know until after the autopsy," he said.

It took about five deputies to subdue and handcuff Mr. Johnson after they used pepper spray on him, Sheriff Strength said.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT

An autopsy on Chris L. Johnson will be performed this morning, according to Richmond County Deputy Coroner Mark Bowen.