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Johnson receives partially suspended 10-year sentence

by DERRICK PERKINS
Editor | December 7, 2021 7:00 AM

A man who led local law enforcement officers on a chase after getting caught stealing from a Libby thrift shop earned a partially suspended sentence with the Montana Department of Corrections last week.

District Judge Matthew Cuffe handed down a 10-year sentence with seven years suspended to Kevin Johnson on Nov. 8. He received credit for 84 days served.

The 44-year-old pleaded guilty to a single count of felony criminal endangerment after striking a deal with prosecutors in late September.

Johnson apologized for his actions during his sentencing in Lincoln County District Court. He told the court he saw his sentence as an “opportunity to help myself.”

Johnson came to the attention of authorities after responding law enforcement officers found him not far from the scene of an Aug. 16 theft from a Mineral Avenue store, according to court documents. In an affidavit, Libby Police officer Ron Buckner described locating Johnson in a vehicle matching a description given law enforcement about 9:52 p.m.

When Johnson asked for a reason for Buckner’s approach, the police officer told him that a surveillance camera had caught him stealing a bicycle and other items. At least one bicycle was loaded atop Johnson’s vehicle, court documents said.

During the ensuing conversation, Buckner wrote that Johnson admitted to possessing a suspended driver’s license. Dispatchers ran Johnson’s information and while he had insurance on the vehicle, the registration was expired.

After contacting his superiors, Buckner prepared to place Johnson under arrest. Johnson started his vehicle and looked up at Buckner and apologized before dumping the clutch and speeding off, court documents said. Although Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Derek Breiland, also on scene, successfully deployed his Taser, Johnson made it away.

The lawmen followed Johnson as he raced through the parking lot of a nearby community medical practice. Johnson eventually ditched his vehicle outside of a local medical center’s emergency room and took off on foot. Buckner caught up to him as he ran down Dakota Avenue, court documents said.

Johnson surrendered, gasping for breath, soon after. He was cuffed and taken to the Lincoln County Detention Center.

Authorities initially charged Johnson with misdemeanor counts of theft, obstructing a peace officer, driving a motor vehicle while suspended and operating with expired registration along with the felony criminal endangerment charge.