Law enforcement nabs ‘man on the run’

It took but a single morning before one of the two inmates who
fled last week from the Gulf County Detention Facility was captured in Franklin

It took most all of three days before they caught the other
one, also in a neighboring county, at the southern edge of Calhoun County.

The search for Chad Edward Johnson, 43, who together with Rex
Arron Veasey, Jr., 29, had busted out of the jail in Gulf County around midnight Tuesday, Sept. 7, ended Thursday, Sept. 9 at about 8:30 p.m. in a
heavily wooded area about four miles south of Blountstown.

“We got our bad guy,” said Gulf Sheriff Mike
Harrison, not long after a helicopter from the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, equipped
with a Forward Looking Infrared thermal camera system, spotted Johnson
hiding in a thickly-wooded area about 100 yards from where law enforcement had
found a 15-passenger van from Gant’s BBQ. Johnson stole the van about five hours after
his breakout.

Calhoun County Sheriff Glenn Kimbrel said the U.S. Marshall’s
Office Fugitive Task Force coordinated with the Gulf County Sheriff’s
Office and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit to search an area in
northern Gulf County where they suspected Johnson might have been.

“They did diligent work in finding out and evaluating how
much it might travel with that amount of gas it had in it,” said Kimbrel.

In addition to Gulf County deputies, the search was
conducted by K-9 units from the Gulf and Calhoun correctional institutions, and
the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

After law enforcement found the abandoned van, nearby an
empty house, they discovered a note left inside the van that said, “I live in
the trailer, please don’t mess with my van.”  Kimbrel said fresh footprints were found
nearby an abandoned trailer.

A second note left by Johnson in the abandoned home thanked the owner for the “good hiding spot” and was signed “Man on the run…”

As several deputies converged on the spot radioed them by
the helicopter, Johnson offered no resistance. “He knew he was outmanned,” said Harrison.

By Friday, Johnson has been taken from the Calhoun County
Jail to Gulf County, where he was charged with escape, principal to attempted murder
and introduction of contraband into a detention facility. Now being held
without bond, he is expected to appear before Circuit Judge Shonna Gay on
Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 5.

The search for Veasey had taken far less time, about half a day after he and Johnson, sometime after midnight, had attacked a guard
at the Gulf County Detention Facility, punching him and trying to stab him with
a homemade knife, before they tore an air conditioning unit from a window and
escaped through the hole, according to a probable cause affidavit filed by

The investigation determined Johnson and Veasey struck the
officer in the face as many as a dozen times after he opened the cell door
where he and Veasey were housed together.

“Using both hands, the officer was able to grab Johnson’s
hand with the homemade 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.”

Veasey was captured by Franklin County sheriff’s deputies
around 11:05 a.m. Tuesday 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.

He 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 in Gulf
County on charges of sexual battery with a weapon on a victim between age 12
and 17, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and escape.

It had not been the first time Veasey had tried to escape
from the facility, the first time in Nov. 2020. Details of that escape remained
sealed on the court records website of Gulf County Clerk of Courts Becky Norris. 

The Star submitted a request to view the documents.

Johnson also had been party to an escape attempt in March
2020 at the Liberty County Jail, when he is alleged to have followed a
correctional officer out of the dorm, grabbed him by the shoulder, and pushed him
to the wall.

“At this point several other inmates jumped on Chad while other inmates
protected Smith as he returned to the control center,” reads the probable cause
affidavit. “An inmate had told (the correctional officer later) that Chad had
grabbed him because he was trying to get his keys in order to escape.”

In addition to attempted escape, Johnson was charged in
March 2020 with battery on a law enforcement officer, and later transferred to
Gulf County. In Sept. 2018, he had been arrested in Liberty County on 15 counts
of possession of child pornography.

After his attorney was able to secure his
release on a $100,000 bond, Johnson was charged in Dec. 2019 on grand theft of
a motor vehicle and his bond was revoked.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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