Times-Union - Albany, NY
A violent death on the run
Fugitive on rape charges kills himself after Cohoes standoff
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
By CAROL DeMARE , BRENDAN J. LYONS , BOB GARDINIER AND CHRISTEN GOWAN, Staff writers
COHOES — A one-time congressional candidate and ex-cop wanted for serial rapes in York, Pa., and Baltimore killed himself inside a Mohawk Street apartment Monday morning, according to a U.S. marshal.
Marshals and Cohoes police were about to end Michael L. Johnson's two-week flight from justice when the 40-year-old shot himself, first in the chest and then in the head, at 2 Mohawk St.
The members of the marshals' fugitive task force were surrounding the house when Johnson came out, spotted the officers and ran back inside his apartment.
"Task force officers heard the gunshot but did not witness the subject commit suicide," the marshals said in a statement released Monday.
Marshal discovered Johnson dead inside an apartment he had rented under an alias.
Johnson's death was the culmination of a four-day hunt for him in the Capital Region. The task force determined he was in the Capital Region last week by tracking the signal from his cellphone, which was bouncing off antennas in the area. They were about to apprehend him when they heard the gunshots at 9:30 a.m.
Johnson, who left the York Police Department in 1998 and once ran for Congress, was wanted in connection with one rape in Baltimore and two others in York.
"The marshals in Harrisburg learned during the early morning hours on Friday that he was here, but the information was very, very vague," said Neil Sullivan, a deputy marshal with the task force in Albany.
"It took four full days of working hard, long hours and old-fashioned police work to find his exact location," Sullivan said. "People were interviewed and his picture was shown. We found out his exact location just before it happened," he said.
Once the task force showed up, "it happened very quickly from that point on," he said.
Johnson, a Republican who until his arrest served as president of the Penn Township Board of Commissioners, was accused of posing as a police officer to detain prostitutes before raping them, according to the marshals. In at least one case, a victim accused him of handcuffing and attacking her inside a minivan.
He initially was arrested at his Pennsylvania home last month, but not before keeping police at bay during a two-hour standoff. Johnson was free on $100,000 bail when he disappeared earlier this month, according to the marshals. At the time, he was expected to be arraigned on the Baltimore rape charge.
Johnson ran for Congress in 2002, coming in fourth in a four-person field.
The apartment is in a small and somewhat run-down two-story wood-frame apartment building adjacent to a towering and now -abandoned Cohoes knitting mill just north of downtown.
A forensic investigations unit worked the scene, taking pictures inside and gathering evidence until the body was removed at about 2 p.m. Mohawk Street was closed down for a time between Ontario Street and Vliet Boulevard after the gunfire.
"I heard two shots, pop, pop. And then the cops came and told me to get out of my apartment," said Matthew Crispell, who lives in another apartment at 2 Mohawk St.