PR officer resigns due to policy violations

By Adam Gaub

Casa Grande Dispatch

Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Elias Johnson resigned Friday after an investigation into an incident that occurred this summer revealed Johnson violated multiple department policies.

Johnson was placed on paid leave on Sept. 25, when Sheriff’s Office personnel announced he was being investigated for allegations of “serious misconduct.”

According to a report, Johnson — who is a civilian and not a sworn deputy — decided to participate in a U.S. Marshals Service bust occurring in his neighborhood in Gilbert, without any authorization.

According to the report, Johnson donned a ballistic vest and used his PCSO-issued vehicle to move down the street to where the U.S. deputy marshals were serving an arrest warrant. Johnson was found to have taken an unautho ized person in his vehicle, too.

Johnson filmed the arrest and divulged sensitive materials about the operation to the media without authorization.

U.S. deputy marshals were concerned about the media outlet — which turned out to be Phoenix Fox affiliate KSAZ — tipping off the suspect, who was a former Phoenix Police Department officer.

Investigators determined Johnson lied about contacting the news media when asked by a U.S. Marshals investigator, his supervisor at PCSO and a Sheriff’s Office internal affairs investigator. Phone records showed Johnson called the Fox 10 assignment desk and a Fox 10 reporter from his PSCO- issued cellphone both before and after the U.S. deputy mar- shals served the arrest warrant.

There was also some question about whether Johnson misrepresented himself as a sworn law enforcement officer, as he signed a note to the U.S. Marshals Office with “Badge #2079,” when he turned over the recording he took on the day of the arrest.

All of Johnson’s actions were undertaken while he was off duty. He was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in July 2011, having worked previously as a broadcast journalist in Arizona and Iowa.


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