- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A judge ordered Thursday that an assault suspect be held in jail without bond, after he earlier was caught and released twice on criminal charges — both before and after he was shot by a lawman and flown to a hospital.
John Otha Dickens Jr., 24, first was released from custody last Sunday on $7,500 bond posted by a bondsman after Dickens’ arrest on charges of committing a second-degree assault earlier that day on Tyneesha Erica Johnson.
Dickens returned to her Lexington Park residence on Monday morning, where court papers allege he cut Johnson’s 5-year-old daughter in the face and also wounded one of Johnson’s friends, before threatening to kill Johnson and attacking her in a bedroom, until sheriff’s Cpl. John Kirkner arrived and shot him.
Dickens was flown to a hospital, according to sheriff’s detectives, where he was treated and released before his arrest again Tuesday on charges from Monday’s incident, including three offenses of first-degree assault.
A court commissioner then authorized Dickens’ pretrial release on the second set of charges on $5,000 bond, which was posted later that day by the same Baltimore bondsman who posted bond following the suspect’s arrest Sunday.
Dickens was told on Sunday, after his first arrest, by a court commissioner to have no contact with Johnson and to stay away from her addresses, according to a motion filed Wednesday by St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) to have Dickens’ pretrial release revoked.
“The [lower] bond set in the most recent case [does] defy all logic,” Fritz wrote, an opinion that echoed concerns voiced earlier that day by Johnson’s family about the handling of Dickens’ cases.
“They told her that they weren’t going to let him out, and they did,” Johnson’s mother said Wednesday at a court hearing, where St. Mary’s District Judge Christy Holt Chesser issued a temporary protective order barring Dickens from going back to the residence or having any contact with Tyneesha Johnson or her children. “He was swinging the knife, ... [and] swinging the knife cut my daughter’s nose,” Tyneesha Johnson testified at the hearing. “There was blood everywhere.”
A staff member of the Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy attended the hearing. Shortly beforehand, Laura Joyce, the center’s executive director, said in a brief telephone interview, “The whole system just falls apart if the really dangerous people aren’t held. If you look at [the charges against] Dickens, the commissioners aren’t getting the information they need, or they’re not acting on it.”
A court commissioner at the county jail in Leonardtown declined Thursday to comment on the matter, and an administrative commissioner for the Southern Maryland area could not be reached that morning at his office.
Chesser said at Wednesday’s hearing that Johnson’s family could contact county prosecutors to seek to have Dickens’ pretrial release revoked, and Fritz filed the request that afternoon. The request was granted, and sheriff’s deputies report that they arrested Dickens later that day.
Kirkner, a 13-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, has been placed on administrative leave as detectives and internal-affairs officers further investigate the shooting that occurred at about 6:30 a.m. Monday at Johnson’s home in the Southampton neighborhood.
The day after the shooting, Fritz said that Dickens was threatening to shoot and stab Johnson, and when deputies arriving at the scene followed what court papers describe as a “blood trail” leading to an upstairs bedroom, they found Dickens on top of the woman, and punching her in what the prosecutor said appeared to them to be “stabbing motions.”
Kirkner told Dickens to stop, and when Dickens did not comply, the sheriff’s office reports, Kirkner fired two rounds from his agency-issued firearm, which ended the assault. The knife was not found in Dickens’ hands when he was shot, the prosecutor said, but the woman who had escaped, and the child at the residence, already had been cut.
A day earlier, court papers state, Johnson alleged that Dickens had repeatedly punched her in the back of the head at the Bristol Avenue residence, and that he also had assaulted her early Saturday morning.
She told police that she and Dickens have lived together for about three months, along with her three children who were present during the altercation.
The suspect’s father, 48-year-old John Otha Dickens Sr., is serving life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder in the 2004 shooting death of a former girlfriend as she knelt on the floor of her mother’s home in Lexington Park’s Westbury neighborhood, not long after he also had been granted pretrial release on domestic assault charges.
“He actually killed a woman when he got out the next day,” Thomas Johnson, Tyneesha Johnson’s father, said on Wednesday afternoon.