Inmates used fists, homemade knife, to overpower guard

Chad Johnson remains at large
$7,000 reward offered for info leading to his capture

The two inmates who escaped early Tuesday morning from the Gulf County Detention Facility attacked a guard, punching him and trying to stab him with a homemade knife, before tearing an air conditioning unit from a window and escaping through the hole.


Sheriff Mike Harrison said the search for Gulf County inmate Chad Edward Johnson, 43, continues, and has expanded outside of the county, with reward money of $7,000 available to those providing information leading to his arrest.

“There is a $5,000 reward offered by the Florida Sheriffs’ Association Criminal Apprehension Assistance Program for information that leads to the arrest of Johnson,” he said. “In addition, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force is offering an additional $1,000. Panhandle Crime Stoppers continues to honor their $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest Johnson.”

The other escapee Rex Arron Veasey, Jr., was captured by Franklin County sheriff’s deputies around 11:05 a.m. Tuesday, just inside the county line in the vicinity of the Box-R Ranch, after he was observed in the woods by a civilian employee of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Harrison said the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office received the call just before 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday from a correctional officer who reported that two inmates were loose in the jail after they had attacked a fellow officer. Law enforcement arrived and determined the two inmates had escaped, he said.

The criminal investigation revealed that Johnson struck the officer in the face after he had opened the cell door where he and Veasey were housed. The two inmates pulled the officer into the cell and punched him in the face as many as a dozen times, he told the investigator.

The officer said Johnson made a statement about killing him and then pulled a homemade knife from his pants and attempted to stab him.

“Using both hands, the officer was able to grab Johnson’s hand with the knife to keep him from stabbing him,” said Harrison. “Johnson continued to strike the officer in the head with his other hand. The officer told the investigator that he almost lost consciousness.”

The news release from the sheriff’s department said that after the two inmates gained access to the common areas of the jail facility, they removed an air conditioning window unit from a wall and escaped through the hole.

After his capture, Veasey was booked into the Franklin County Jail and faces new charges of escape from a correctional facility and one count of attempted murder. He had been in custody on charges of sexual battery with a weapon on a victim between age 12 and 17, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and escape.

Johnson remains at large and is wanted for escape from a correctional facility, attempted murder, and introduction of contraband into a county detention facility. A 43-year-old white male, he stands 6 feet tall, and weighs approximately 215 pounds, with blue eyes, short brown hair and possibly a beard. Johnson has tattoos on his left and right arms, including his hands

He was held for the Liberty County Jail on 15 counts of possession of child pornography, grand theft of a motor vehicle, battery on a law enforcement officer and attempted escape.. He is suspected in the theft of a 15-passenger 2006 Ford van that displayed Florida tag 7039XP. The vehicle was last seen at approximately 6:20 a.m. Tuesday morning travelling north on Highway 71 near the Calhoun and Gulf County line.

Anyone with information may contact the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office directly at 850-227-1115 (opt 4), contact their local authorities or remain anonymous by calling Panhandle Crime Stoppers at 850-785-TIPS (8477).

Tips may also be reported through the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office App or online at

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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