A 16-month-old warrant for the arrest of a Florida man with a history of violent crimes was in the possession of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office when he allegedly raped and impregnated his live-in girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter, says the Tampa Bay Times. Gregory Johns, 42, was shot to death in a motel room on Saturday by sheriff’s deputies as they tried to arrest him on a charge of sexual battery. They shot Johns when he threatened them with a knife.
The circumstances surrounding the case are shaping up as a potential embarrassment for Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who in 2009 eliminated a team of 16 deputies whose primary responsibility was to find and arrest fugitives like Johns. Gualtieri’s opponent in the Nov. 6 general election for sheriff, Democrat Scott Swope of Palm Harbor, said Johns’ ability to elude arrest shows the folly of that decision, part of sweeping budget cuts Gualtieri made because of declining tax revenues while he was chief deputy. Swope said other criminals like Johns could lurk among the 56,000 outstanding arrest warrants backlogged in Pinellas County. “I think it’s a public safety issue when there are 56,000 active warrants in Pinellas County and the current sheriff has disbanded the fugitive section,” Swope said.