Arraignment postponed for man charged with killing Pa. wildlife officer

December 23, 2010|By DON AINES |
  • Christopher Johnson
File photo

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — A mandatory arraignment scheduled for Thursday morning in Gettysburg for a man accused in the death of Pennsylvania wildlife conservation officer David Grove was postponed until Jan. 20.

The Adams County (Pa.) District Attorney's Office filed the motion for the postponement in the case of Christopher Johnson, 27, of Fairfield, Pa., who was charged with first-degree murder, illegal possession of a firearm and other charges in the Nov. 11 shooting death of Grove, also of Fairfield.

District Attorney Shawn Wagner declined to explain why the  state requested the postponement.

Johnson's case file was unavailable, and Wagner said it was with the judge assigned to the case.

Pennsylvania State Police said after the shooting that Grove had pulled over Johnson and another man on suspicion of poaching deer in Freedom Township, Pa. Police allege that during the stop, as Grove attempted to handcuff Johnson, Johnson pulled a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun from his waistband and exchanged fire with Grove.

Grove was shot four times, including a fatal shot to the back of the neck, according to testimony at Johnson's Nov. 24 preliminary hearing in Gettysburg. Johnson had a gunshot wound to his hip when he was taken into custody the next day, according to hearing testimony.

During the hearing, troopers testified that 15 shell casings from a .45-caliber pistol had been recovered at the scene, and Wagner said afterward that the weapon had to have been reloaded for it to have fired that many rounds. Grove fired 10 shots, according to testimony.

The murder weapon had not been recovered as of the Nov. 24 preliminary hearing.

Wagner said at the time of Johnson's arrest on Nov. 12 and after the preliminary hearing that he intended to seek the death penalty because Grove was intentionally killed while acting in the line of duty. In Pennsylvania, a notice of aggravating circumstances must be filed with the court prior to a defendant's mandatory arraignment.

Grove, 31, a former Waynesboro, Pa., resident, graduated from Grace Academy in Hagerstown. He was the first state Game Commission officer killed in the line of duty in 95 years, according to a commission spokesman.

Since Johnson's arrest, Judge Michael A. George granted defense motions seeking the appointment of a special investigator and approval of expert fees for a psychiatrist, according to court records.

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