Wilmington police veteran returns to force reduced in rank after being found not guilty of choking teen

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Port City Daily file photo.
Port City Daily file photo.

WILMINGTON – James Coley Johnson, a 26-year veteran with the Wilmington Police Department, has been demoted in rank and will return to full duty nearly two months after he was found not guilty on an assault charge.

The internal affairs investigation into an April 2014 arrest of a then-16 year old boy on trespassing and drug charges has concluded, according to Wilmington Police Department Spokeswoman Linda Rawley.

Rawley said Johnson, 51, will return to the force next week to perform administrative duties until his certifications have been brought up to date. He has been demoted from corporal to the rank of police officer.

Johnson was placed on unpaid leave on June 23, 2014, following an indictment on two misdemeanor charges, including misdemeanor assault and failure to discharge duties.

On June 10, 2016, New Hanover County Superior Court Judge Ebern T. Watson found Johnson not guilty of the charges after nearly an hour of the judge’s deliberation. Johnson waived his right for a jury trial in favor for a a bench trial, which began on May 31.

Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave following the judge’s ruling, Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said during a press conference about the verdict. Evangelous said the police department made the incident public more than two years ago, after it was discovered on an in-car video recording during a routine internal affairs audit.

The police department released the video footage from Johnson’s patrol car on the night of the teen’s arrest on April 4, 2014 and the chief’s statement to the community was released on the police department’s Facebook page. A civil lawsuit in the case on behalf of the teen, is pending in federal court.

Read related trial coverage: