According to sheriff's office records obtained by The Augusta Chronicle , Mr. Johnson was fired from his job as a deputy at the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office in Camden, S.C., in March 2006, less than a year after he was hired. Mr. Johnson was terminated because he "used vulgar language towards dispatchers," the chief deputy wrote in a pre-employment questionnaire requested by Richmond County.
On the questionnaire, Mr. Johnson's integrity, reliability/attendance and cooperation with peers were rated as below average -- the lowest on the scale. He was given an average rating for his technical ability, motivation towards work, acceptance of supervision, adaptability/flexibility and oral communication skills, the document shows. He scored above average on writing skills.
Sheriff Ronnie Strength said that Mr. Johnson was screened during the application process and that he had been told by supervisors in the jail that Mr. Johnson was a good employee.
"They have to do a good job there, or we don't put them on the road (patrol)," the sheriff said.
Because Mr. Johnson performed satisfactorily at the jail, he was allowed to apply for certification as a peace officer, according to James W. Ellison, an attorney with Burnside Wall LLP Attorneys at Law, which represents the sheriff's office.
"His background was completely investigated by the Peace Officer Standards Training Council, and he was certified pursuant to state law to be a certified police officer by that agency prior to being placed on the road patrol," Mr. Ellison said in a letter to a Chronicle reporter.
Mr. Johnson was charged with aggravated battery July 28 in connection with a fight at Country Club Dance Hall and Saloon the previous Saturday.
In that fight, Christopher Sean Kersey, 35, suffered a broken and dislocated jaw, fractures to both orbital bones, temporary loss of the use of his left eye and a shattered right elbow, a sheriff's report states. Mr. Johnson allegedly punched and kneed Mr. Kersey even after he was handcuffed, according to the report.
The deputy was in uniform but was not on duty and was not working security for the club. Sheriff Strength said Mr. Johnson had worked a special-duty assignment earlier that night and had gone by Country Club, where his girlfriend, also a deputy, was working an assignment. The sheriff said she was not present at the fight because she was taking a suspect in another case to jail.
A message left at the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office regarding Mr. Johnson's termination was not immediately returned Monday.
In a statement obtained from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, Mr. Johnson described the incident that led to his firing in Kershaw County. He wrote that he was off duty at a convenience store when he called dispatch on his cell phone to report that several people wanted on arrest warrants were in the store. He said that when he asked dispatch to send an on-duty officer to arrest the suspects, one began to run. As he reached to get cuffs, he swore into the phone. He was fired the next day, the statement said.
After he was let go in March 2006, he worked for the South Carolina Office of the Lieutenant Governor until June 2006.
Mr. Johnson was hired by Richmond County in February 2007, records show. Disciplinary records show that he committed several minor infractions, including speeding and being at fault in an accident. He was suspended for one day in November after another deputy clocked him driving 80 mph on Gordon Highway. He faced a one-day suspension in April for carrying his weapon into the jail.