Arson, crash incident two-county case

Gas station employee puts out spreading fire

David Scott Johnson

PORT ANGELES — A Sequim man who allegedly lit gasoline he had sprayed on the pavement at a Blyn convenience store, stole a pickup truck and crashed it near Discovery Bay on June 1, injuring a State Patrol officer, faces multiple charges in both Clallam and Jefferson counties.

David Scott Johnson, 40, pleaded not guilty to multiple counts Friday in Clallam County Superior Court. Bail has been set at $1.1 million.

According to a probable cause statement, store employee Daniel Weaver pushed Johnson out of the way while Johnson appeared to be igniting gasoline-soaked pavement and extinguished the blaze.

Johnson may offer a mental health defense as his cases proceed through both jurisdictions, his lawyer said at the arraignment.

Johnson is charged with first-degree arson, second-degree assault with intent to commit a felony, first-degree attempted robbery, motor vehicle theft and two counts of second-degree malicious mischief with damage more than $750.

“I will let the court and counsel know that we are likely, at least examining, pursing the possibility of mental health defenses in this case,” attorney John Hayden of Clallam Public Defender, representing Johnson, told Judge Simon Barnhart, who set a status hearing for July 2 and trial date of July 26.

“It’s awfully early to know where it’s going to lead, but it’s certainly a possibility,” Hayden said.

Hayden said he anticipated additional charges from another county and that it made sense to deal with all the charges “as a package.”

According to Clallam County and Jefferson County court records, on the morning of June 1, Johnson allegedly threatened the male driver of a work van at the Longhouse Market in Blyn in Clallam County while the driver was pumping gas at about 9:30 a.m.

Johnson pulled the nozzle out of the vehicle, “spraying gas everywhere,” including inside the van, and threatened the driver while demanding the keys, according to the probable cause statement.

A person who attempted to intervene also was doused with gasoline, according to court records.

After the gas stopped spewing from the hose, Johnson lit the soaked pavement with a lighter.

Weaver stopped him, according to a description of a surveillance video that recorded the incident.

“David turns toward Daniel and leans down to the ground,” according to the Clallam County probable cause statement, written by county sheriff’s Deputy Mark Titterness.

“Daniel runs at David and pushed David out of the way of the spilled fuel as the fuel is igniting.

“Daniel grabs a fire extinguisher … to put out the fire.

“David (shoes on fire) walked back into the flames and appears to try to open the van door several times.

“David walks over to the truck on the other side of the fuel pump and enters the truck and Daniel finishes extinguishing the flames.

“David drives off quickly and cuts off several vehicles to get to the highway.”

The van’s interior fabric and the steering wheel were damaged by flames before the fire was extinguished — and before anything exploded.

Johnson allegedly stole a Ford F-350 “dually” pickup and raced down U.S. Highway 101 before he crashed south of Discovery Bay at Milepost 283 in Jefferson County.

State Patrol Trooper Casey Corey wrote an affidavit of probable cause that describes what happened next, which could provide the basis of charges in Jefferson County Superior Court, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney James Kennedy said Friday.

Corey was alerted of the Longhouse Market incident before he saw Johnson speeding down Highway 101 in the pickup, which was following another vehicle at a high rate of speed within a foot of its bumper, Corey said.

He lost sight of the vehicle — Johnson was trying to lose him, according to Corey — before Corey rounded a corner and came upon a “severe collision scene” that had resulted from Johnson crashing into a State Patrol commercial traffic vehicle and involved a tractor-trailer, Corey said.

“The rear of [the State Patrol vehicle] was destroyed and the pickup bed [of the F-350] was ripped off and the vehicle had spun counterclockwise and was pushed up against the rear of the tractor-trailer,” according to the probable cause statement.

State Patrol officer Alfred L. Alderson, 55, whose face was lacerated, was treated and discharged from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Johnson also was treated at Harboview and discharged.

His face was bleeding immediately after the crash and he was “writhing around and appeared to be in some sort of state of a seizure,” Corey said.

“He never spoke any words to me, despite my repeated attempts to get him to tell me his name or how he was doing.”

Kennedy said a $100,000 Jefferson County Superior Court warrant has been issued for Johnson’s arrest for investigation of vehicular assault.

He said charges could be filed depending on the results of toxicology tests and the contents of a full police report.

“That might be some time before that happens, given the extent of the investigation,” he said.

Johnson also has an outstanding $1,000 Jefferson County District Court bench warrant for a probation violation on a third-degree negligent driving conviction.

“We have not had any conversations on combining cases,” Kennedy said.

“I’m not outright opposed to it.”

If the case goes to trial, separate proceedings would be held in each county, he said.

Kennedy said the next step in the Jefferson County case would be that Johnson would likely be transported to Jefferson County on the warrant after the Clallam County case is resolved or if Johnson makes bail.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jesse Espinoza said he anticipated a three-day trial.

Johnson, who was incoherent in his first two court hearings and was subdued in court when charges were filed last Monday, was calm and responsive Friday.

Barnhart provided Johnson, who appeared by video from a jail holding room, with his advice-of-right form that would have been given to him earlier at his preliminary appearances had he been capable of understanding them.

“My guess is that [at] those preliminary appearances, he probably was in no shape to deal with them,” Hayden said.

Barnhart read Johnson his rights and asked him to sign the document.

Asked by Hayden if he did so, Johnson replied, “I just did.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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