The 11 criminal charges faced by a Pacific County Sheriff’s Office deputy, including bribery and extortion, apparently stem from his alleged actions after someone threw an egg at his personal vehicle.
“It’s just dumb,” said Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, who is prosecuting the case. “Obviously it’s not good that the car got egged, but that’s the wrong way to go about it.”
Vance O. Johnson, 44, is charged with first-degree extortion, four counts of bribery, five counts of reckless endangerment and one count of reckless driving. The investigation and prosecution is being handled by Lewis County authorities in order to avoid a conflict of interest. Johnson has been placed on administrative leave.
According to charging documents, Johnson saw someone throw an egg at his Jeep from a passing car March 28. Witnesses told Lewis County Sheriff’s Office investigators Johnson gave chase, following within 10 feet of the car with his high beams on at speeds up to 75 mph.
The other driver said Johnson eventually cut him off, and he had to brake “pretty violently” to avoid a collision.
He said Johnson got out of the Jeep, “and was making a ‘come on’ motion with his hand and appeared to be reaching for his gun,” according to charging documents.
The reckless driving charge stems from the chase and a reckless endangerment charge was filed for each person in the car.
According to court papers, Raymond Police Department Officer Sean Jarvis said Johnson texted him March 30 saying his car had just been egged. Jarvis said he offered to start a case file but Johnson declined, saying he would wait until he could get the rest of the license plate number.
On April 20, after responding to a burglary call with Raymond Police Officer Robert Verboomen, Johnson spotted the car. Verboomen said Johnson motioned for him to follow him, then began to follow a car. After they stopped, Verboomen said Johnson brought him the driver’s identification, saying the driver was the one who had thrown an egg at his Jeep.
The driver told police Johnson angrily asked him to get out of his vehicle, asking if he recognized him. When the driver said he didn’t, he said Johnson told him “to not play stupid.”
The driver said Johnson told him he had to pay $1,500 to repair damage to his Jeep or he would file felony charges.
Johnson allegedly told the driver he had to file a statement form, identifying the other people who had been in the vehicle.
The driver said “he felt obligated to fill out the statement and was told that he was going to ‘get a ride in a cop car’ if he didn’t complete the statement,” the documents state.
Johnson allegedly asked the driver why he left after the original incident.
According to court papers the driver “responded that (Johnson) was very intimidating, he … was very scared and thought the defendant was reaching for a gun. The defendant responded, ‘Yeah I was reaching for my gun.’ The defendant went on to talk about carrying a gun and how he walks in the shadows.”
According to the court documents, Verboomen described the incident in much the same way.
“Officer Verbooman indicated that he was put in a difficult situation by the defendant,” charging documents state. “He also indicated he thought the defendant’s actions on that day were inappropriate.”
Verboomen said Johnson told him there should be a case file, and later argued with Jarvis about the case.
The driver’s mother reported she came home to find the police officers with her son, who appeared “uncomfortable and scared.” She told investigators Johnson seemed very angry and explained the incident, saying “damages were $1,500 and he would not file felony charges if that money was paid.”
“The defendant then commented on (the mother’s) truck and how nice it was and that he could not afford such a truck on his salary. He then commented that all of the kids came from good families with nice houses and he did not want to cause problems for (another parent) at her work,” which was at the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office, the documents state.
The officers then apparently went to visit another parent. “She explained that the defendant explained, threateningly, that the damage was $1,500 and if it were paid, he would not press felony charges. She described the defendant as being angry, upset and frustrated,” according to the documents.
She added that Johnson “seemed to be glad the people in the car were frightened.”
“The defendant indicated he did not want to turn the matter over to his insurance company because it would ‘jack up’ his rates,” the woman told investigators.
Johnson allegedly visited the parent who works for the Prosecutor’s Office April 21. She said Johnson walked into her office, closing the door though she asked him to keep it open, then began shouting about the incident with the egg.
He again allegedly said if he was not paid $1,500, he would file charges against the people who were in the car.
“The defendant admitted he had not yet obtained an estimate, but that he would be getting a rental vehicle and the ‘kids’ would have to pay for that as well,” the documents state. “When (the mother) questioned the amount, the defendant became upset and indicated that the ‘kids’ would learn to respect other people’s property.”
She also asked him about investigating a crime in which he was the victim, and said Johnson told her the Raymond Police Department would not make a report. “The defendant became even more agitated and finally left by getting up and pushing (the woman’s) desk toward her,” the documents state.
“We based the extortion charge on the threat he made to (the other driver), where he said you either fill out a statement or you’re going to be in the back of my police car,” said Meyer, the prosecutor. “The bribery charges are him saying, ‘$1,500 or I’m going to file felony charges.’ And it doesn’t help that he’s in uniform at the time that he’s saying that. … Our position is he’s agreeing to exercise his discretion and not arrest them for charges if he’s paid $1,500.”
The extortion and bribery charges are felonies, and if convicted, Johnson would lose his right to own or possess a firearm. His arraignment is set for July 22 in Lewis County.