In a plea agreement, a Clovis man was told that he would not go to prison for stealing guns, ammunition and a bullet-proof vest from Fresno County Assistant Sheriff Tom Gattie’s car in December.
On Friday, Judge Dennis Peterson sent Tyler Adam Johnson to Wasco State Prison anyway – for a 90-day examination to determine whether he is a candidate for probation.
Peterson’s decision in Fresno County Superior Court stunned Fresno defense lawyer Jonathan Rooker, who has sought probation for Johnson. The county Probation Department wanted Johnson to spend 180 days in jail. Prosecutor Katherine Plante wanted Johnson to serve a year behind bars.
Johnson, 19, will be sentenced once he returns from Wasco.
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His actions have rendered the streets of Fresno unsafe.
Prosecutor Katherine Plante
Clovis police said the crime occurred in late Dec. 15 and or early Dec. 16. No one saw the theft, but Rooker said his client confessed to police to finding Gattie’s car unlocked and stealing a shotgun, a department-issued .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, magazines with bullets and a bullet-proof vest.
On March 29, Johnson pleaded no contest to felony charges of grand theft of a firearm and possession of stolen property. In exchange for his plea, two charges – grand theft of a firearm and possession of a stolen shotgun – were dismissed.
In court Friday, Rooker said Johnson has attention deficit disorder and was raised by a single mother after his father left the family. Though his mother remarried, Johnson felt like a stepson and rebelled, “acting out and acting in different ways.”
Rooker and Plante told the judge that the plea agreement involved no prison time.
But Plante also told Peterson that Johnson was on probation when he stole Gattie’s firearms and other items. In August last year, Fresno State police arrested Johnson for possession of “brass knuckles.” Johnson pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge in October and was sentenced to two years of probation, court records say.
I am very concerned. My gun is on the streets, and if something happens with it, I will hold this young man personally responsible.
Assistant Sheriff Tom Gattie
Plante said Johnson also was out on bail after stealing from Gattie, but was taken into custody on Wednesday after he tested positive for marijuana and failed to remain in contact with probation officials with his ankle monitor.
“He bragged about stealing the items from a law enforcement official,” Plante said. Johnson also fired the shotgun at a party and traded the pistol for drugs from a marijuana dealer, she said. “His actions have rendered the streets of Fresno unsafe,” Plante said.
After Peterson sent Johnson to prison, Gattie, who attended the hearing, said it was an appropriate outcome. “I have two sons and they know if they do something wrong, they will be held accountable,” Gattie said.
Gattie also said he is worried; the shotgun was recovered, but the pistol is still missing.
According to Gattie, he had planned to go to the gun range on the morning of Dec. 15, but instead had to go into the office for work. By the time he got home, it was raining heavily. “I parked in my driveway, not on the street,” Gattie said. He said he grabbed his briefcase and clicked the key-chain button to lock the car. “ I heard it activate,” he said.
He said the gun was unloaded in a soft gun case out of view. The shotgun was disassembled and in a large utility bag that also held his bullet-proof vest and magazines filled with ammunition. After the theft a neighbor told him about seeing young man with a shotgun. Gattie said he then alerted Clovis police. Johnson was arrested in the afternoon of Jan. 3 near Woodworth Avenue and First Street in Old Town Clovis.
“I am very concerned,” said Gattie, who credited Clovis Detective Brent Drum with solving the case. “My gun is on the streets, and if something happens with it, I will hold this young man personally responsible.”