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Man released from jail by mistake found at traffic stop in Concord

By Nathan Hardin
nhardin@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — A man called “dangerous” by Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten was captured in Concord on Thursday after mistakenly being released from the county jail Wednesday.
Willie James Johnson Jr. was taken back into custody shortly before 11 a.m. after a traffic stop on Crowell Drive in Concord, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Following the arrest, Johnson complained of an injury to his leg and was taken to Rowan Regional Medical Center. He was then taken back to the Rowan County Detention Center.
Johnson was initially taken into custody Tuesday and charged with robbing Domino’s Pizza on West Innes Street at gunpoint in April.
He was released Wednesday after posting $500 of his $25,500 bond. Authorities realized the mistake about 6 p.m. that evening.
Authorities began combing the streets for the 19-year-old Wednesday night. Before authorities found him, Auten said Johnson should be considered armed and dangerous.
“One of his charges in the past that he’s accused of is he broke a window pane and took a piece of glass and tried to stab a Salisbury detective about a month ago,” Auten said at a press conference Thursday morning.
When Salisbury officers went to a house on South Lee Street Tuesday for the initial arrest, police said Johnson ran from the home but was caught shortly after near South Railroad Street.
Johnson continued to resist officers until he was placed in a restraining chair in the detention center, Auten said.
Johnson was initially jailed Tuesday under a $25,000 bond for the robbery charge. He was given an additional $500 bond for resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer.
But after Johnson’s first appearance in court Wednesday, authorities only had a release order for the $500 bond, Auten said.
Johnson did not return to the bondsman to finish paperwork.
“It’s obvious he knows he’s not supposed to be a free man,” Auten said at the conference.
Johnson was arrested at the traffic stop by Concord and Salisbury police officers. He was then held at the Concord Police Department until Rowan deputies arrived.
After his release Wednesday, a misdemeanor probation violation charge was filed for Johnson.
The additional charge was served following his arrest, and his bond was increased to $35,000.
Despite talk of a possible misdemeanor escape from jail charge, Johnson did not receive any further charges.
In a press release, the Sheriff’s Office said an internal investigation into how Johnson was released is ongoing. Investigators were reviewing surveillance footage from the detention center and surrounding areas Thursday.
“That’s a busy place, but that’s not an excuse,” Auten said Thursday morning. “Our duty is to run that building and keep control of those prisoners.”
Auten said some days 50 to 60 people can come in and out of jail, but he said there should have been red flags in Johnson’s release.
“It’s upsetting to me that we dropped the ball on this one, so to speak,” he said. “I wasn’t a happy camper last night when my phone rang.”

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