Ex-student behind lockdown wanted reference letter

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A 21-year-old man who prompted a lockdown at his former high school when a student spotted a gun tucked into his waistband had gone there to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation to college, police said Friday.

Damian Johnson of Manchester was arraigned Friday in Manchester District Court on a felony count of falsifying physical evidence and misdemeanor counts of criminal trespassing and disrupting school. His lawyer entered not-guilty pleas on the misdemeanor counts, and the judge scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Oct. 9 on the felony count. Johnson remains in custody on $20,000 bail.

His lawyer, William Schultz, declined to comment after the brief hearing.

The 90-minute lockdown at Manchester High School West began at about 8 a.m. Thursday, when a female student spotted Johnson walking through the cafeteria with a gun in his waistband, according to court documents. She told school officials she recognized Johnson as the father of her best friend's children.

School officials said Johnson attended West from 2009 until March 2011, when he withdrew and went to Manchester Memorial High School. Spokeswoman Andrea Alley said Friday that Johnson didn't graduate from either high school.

After being spotted with the gun, Johnson put the gun and a knife into a black backpack belonging to a 17-year-old student at the school. The student told police she let him put the weapons in there because she did not want him to get arrested.

Johnson entered the classroom of Beverly Robie, who told police she knew him as a former student. Robie told Johnson she thought the police were looking for him and he asked her not to call them, telling her he didn't want to go back to jail, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. She told police he agreed to her calling the police to let them know where he was.

Police say there were four students in the classroom with Johnson and Robie when officers entered.

Police Chief David Mara said Thursday that Johnson was apprehended without a struggle and hadn't acted violently or threatened anyone during the course of the lockdown.

Sgt. Brian O'Keefe said Johnson was convicted in 2011 of stalking and two counts of simple assault and in 2012 of unarmed robbery.

The school in New Hampshire's largest city is about 20 miles south of Concord. It has about 1,300 students.

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