VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The family of a man accused of throwing a toddler over a fence after a police chase defended the suspect outside the Virginia Beach courthouse Tuesday.
A judge appointed 22-year-old Devonte Johnson a public defender at a hearing Tuesday morning, after listing some of the charges against him, including child endangerment.
Investigators say he crashed into a house, and witnesses say he pulled a 3-year-old boy from the car and threw him over a fence. A trooper caught Johnson as he was trying to climb over the fence.
Johnson’s cousin, Tiera Johnson, spoke outside the courthouse Tuesday about seeing him on the news.
“My heart starting hurting, like ‘This is not my cousin,'” she said. “But I know he would not do anything like this, just his mind was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and all he could think about was himself. He didn’t mean to intentionally hurt the child.”
The toddler is Johnson’s girlfriend’s son, according to his cousin.
“All he was thinking was to get away from the police,” she said. “I’ve been around him when he’s with this 3-year-old, he never popped the child or did anything to intentionally hurt the child, so I’m saying, I’m not thinking he was in his right mind.”
A woman who identified herself as the toddler’s mother watched the court proceedings, but said she did not want to talk about the case. The child was with her, and appeared to be healthy and unhurt.
When the crash happened, police took the boy to the hospital as a precaution, but said his injuries were minor.
Johnson said she doesn’t understand why her cousin would run from police, but 10 On Your Side found convictions for statutory burglary, grand larceny, and unlawful wounding in 2013.