Man pleads guilty to throwing toddler over fence during pursuit

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A man who led state police on a high-speed chase before tossing a child over a fence in October 2015 pleaded guilty to three felony charges Monday.

22-year-old Devonte Jamar Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of child endangerment and eluding police.

According to court documents, a Virginia State Police Trooper was working in his marked police cruiser on Interstate 64 in Virginia Beach around 2:15 p.m. on October 10, 2015, when he spotted a black Dodge Challenger driving 75 miles per hour in a 55 miles per hour zone.

Court documents identified the driver as Johnson.

The Trooper turned on his lights and began pursuing Johnson. He got behind the Challenger with the lights still going as Johnson got off on the Indian River Road West exit and continued driving. The Trooper sounded sirens three separate times while directly behind Johnson, but he still would not pull over.

Johnson then turned right onto Reon Drive and finally came to a stop on the side of the road. The Trooper got out of his patrol car and walked toward Johnson’s car. As the Trooper approached the vehicle, Johnson made eye contact through the side view mirror and sped off, court documents say.

Johnson drove toward the corner of Reon Drive and Providence Road, passed another car and ran through a red light to turn onto Providence. The Trooper continued to follow Johnson down Providence, where Johnson reached speeds of about 100 miles per hour in the 45 miles per hour zone. After driving just short of a mile down Providence, Johnson made a hard right turn onto Pepper Mill Place and lost control of the vehicle. He crashed into a townhouse going about 70 miles per hour. There was severe front end damage to Johnson’s vehicle as well as the townhouse, court documents say. Both of the vehicle’s front airbags were deployed in the crash and there was no child safety seat of any kind in Johnson’s car.

The Trooper got out of his patrol car behind Johnson’s crashed car and ordered Johnson to get out of the vehicle. Johnson got out of the car, but then reached back inside to grab a three-year-old child. The Trooper approached and put his hands on Johnson, telling him to put the child down. As soon as Johnson put the toddler on the ground, the child began crying. The Trooper asked Johnson to put the toddler on the front seat until rescue crews could come and examine the child. Instead of doing that, Johnson took a step toward the car and then took off running in the opposite direction with the child in his arms.

The Trooper ran after Johnson, continuously telling him to stop running and to put the child down. Johnson continued to follow Johnson as he ran through the neighborhood. The Trooper didn’t want to forcefully take Johnson down because the child was in his arms, court documents say.

Johnson approached a six-foot privacy fence and then threw the child over the fence. The Trooper described the motion of throwing the child as “a basketball free throw.” After throwing the child over, court documents say Johnson attempted to climb over himself. As he did so, the Trooper grabbed him from behind and pulled him to the ground. Even when Johnson was on the ground, he fought with the Trooper.

The Trooper told Johnson he was under arrest, but Johnson continued to fight. A citizen who witnessed Johnson throw the child over the fence ran over to help to the Trooper subdue Johnson and get him into handcuffs. Another citizen who also witnessed the incident was able to get inside the fence and help the child. The child was on the ground crying when the second citizen ran in and picked him up.

Rescue crews transported the child to CHKD for treatment of a bloody nose and swelling to the head. It was later determined that the three-year-old was Johnson’s girlfriend’s child. The toddler was left in Johnson’s care while his mother was at work.

Court records indicate Johnson has prior convictions of burglary, larceny and unlawful wounding. He was also on active probation when he was pulled over for speeding.

Johnson’s sentencing was scheduled for August 23.

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