Shooting suspect will face jury

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Johnson charged with armed criminal action, assault, robbery

ALTON -- A preliminary hearing was held June 20 in Oregon County Associate Court to determine if there was enough evidence to bound Jesse Johnson over for trial.

Johnson, 20, of Mammoth Spring is charged with robbing the Bullseye Convenience Store at Thayer in the early morning hours of April 1. During the robbery Johnson is alleged to have shot Philip Berkley, 70, of Bolivar with a .44 magnum revolver. Berkley was shot in the foot during the shooting and was seriously injured.

Several officers testified during the hearing including Thayer Police Chief Frank Bernard, Thayer City Police Officer Michael Bunting and Oregon County Deputy Darren Sorrell.

Sorrell made the initial stop on the van Johnson was driving approximately six minutes after the robbery. He said he had just returned home from work at the sheriff's department when a call went across the scanner that the convenience store had been robbed.

He said on his way to the store he encountered a blue mini van traveling at a high rate of speed, possibly 70 mph, on business Highway 63 where the posted speed limit is 35 mph.

He said it crossed his mind that the driver of the van could be the robber.

Sorrell said he detained Johnson, who appeared very nervous, until officer Bunting arrived.

Bunting testified that he found several bottles of liquor, several cartons of cigarettes and $300 in cash as well as the .44 magnum in the Johnson vehicle.

Chief Bernard said that he had a written statement from Johnson admitting to the robbery and the shooting, as well as the robbery of the Flash Market Convenience Store in Thayer in January. An undisclosed amount of cash was taken in that robbery.

The April 1 robbery and shooting took place at 2:20 a.m. The store is located on Thayer business Highway 63.

Bernard said Johnson entered the store brandishing a .44 magnum revolver and demanded the store clerk, Penny Morgan, give him money from the cash register.

Morgan also testified at the hearing. She said she gave him the money in the cash register and he put it in a large black duffel bag. She said he also took bottles of liquor and cartons of cigarettes. Morgan testified that the robber was wearing a mask and she could not identify him. She said he took her to the men's restroom at the back of the store and while they were in the room a customer (Berkley) entered the store and the robber went out to confront him.

Morgan testified that after she heard the gunshot, the robber fled from the building through a back door.

Morgan testified when she came out of the restroom she found Berkley shot and bleeding badly, on the floor holding his foot.

Judge Sandra Osborn determined there was enough evidence to bound Johnson over for trial.

He was originally charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

Judge Osborn amended the assault charge to second-degree assault but the other two charges remain the same.

A trial date of July 22 was set.

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