published Friday, August 9th, 2013

East Ridge High School student charged for knives in vehicle

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An East Ridge High School senior’s first day back at school went all wrong Thursday when he was arrested on felony charges for having knives in his car.

Police found a fixed-blade survival knife and a folding pocket knife in Eric Johnson’s ‘96 Ford Explorer, according to East Ridge police spokesman Robert Wade. Wade said the incident carries charges specially written for offenses occurring on school premises.

East Ridge High seniors traditionally form a parade and are escorted by police through the community, a rite-of-passage marking their last first day of high school.

Halfway to school Thursday morning, Johnson realized that he had left a hunting knife tucked between the driver seat and center console of his SUV. The knife was a gift to him from his father, who carried it during an Army tour of duty in Iraq nearly a decade ago, he said.

Johnson said he kept the knife in his vehicle because a friend was car-jacked in Brainerd and he visits his mother who lives in Brainerd.

Thursday morning, he faced the choice to return home, take the knife out of his Explorer and miss the senior parade, or make the annual event and risk having the knife spotted.

“I intended on taking it out this morning before I headed to school,” he said.

He chose to get to the parade. But when he had to hit the brakes during the event, the ‘96 vehicle’s brakes locked up and Johnson slid into the car in front of him, which hit another car in turn.

Back at the school, police and school administrators checked out the cars involved in the incident. Johnson said he didn’t think about putting the knife away in the glove compartment to keep it out of sight. A school official spotted the knife handle through the Explorer’s window, and police were notified.

Johnson said an officer asked him if there was anything in the car that shouldn’t be. Johnson said he told the officers about the hunting knife and about a pocket knife in the glove compartment.

Then he was arrested and taken to Hamilton County jail for booking. He paid $160 to bond out Thursday.

Johnson faces a court date for the charges and has four police citations to pay for the initial wreck.

He said there is a good possibility he’ll not be able to finish his last year at East Ridge High School. A school official told him he will be expelled. Johnson will speak to administrators this week about his future at the school.

No East Ridge High School officials were available for comment Thursday evening.

Johnson said the revelation that he faces felony charges wasn’t the worst news of the day.

“I was just thinking, ‘Gee, there goes my senior year,’” he said. “I’m just trying to make it through high school and go about my business elsewhere.”

Contact staff writer Alex Green at 423-757-6731 or agreen@timesfreepress.com.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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