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12-15-06, 06:48 AM #1
Bears' Johnson facing numerous gun charges after police raid
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CHICAGO - A cache of unregistered guns and assault rifles - some loaded - was found Thursday inside the home of Bears defensive tackle Terry "Tank" Johnson when police raided his house while he was at Halas Hall preparing for Sunday's Tampa Bay game.
The news sent shock waves through Halas Hall, where coach Lovie Smith worried if it would be a distraction to the team's bid for a Super Bowl championship.
Johnson cannot be suspended by the team under the labor agreement, and punishment by the league - a fine and/or a suspension - likely would come only after a conviction, according to an NFL spokesman. But Smith could withhold playing time or make Johnson inactive if he believed it was necessary.
"I'm not going to discipline a guy until I find out what I'm supposed to be disciplining him for," Smith said Thursday.
Attempts to reach Johnson and his agent, Bill Heck, were unsuccessful.
Lake County authorities charged Johnson, 25, with six misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of a weapon without a Firearm Owner's Identification card. The weapons seized during the raid included a .44 magnum Smith & Wesson revolver, a .50 caliber Desert Eagle handgun, a .45 caliber handgun, a .308 caliber Winchester rifle and two assault-style rifles - a Colt AR-15 and a .223 caliber.
The raid also resulted in the arrest of another man who was living in Johnson's home. Willie B. Posey, 26, was charged with felony possession of marijuana after police found more than 2 ounces of the illegal substance during the raid, authorities said. Posey is being held pending a bond hearing Friday.
Police said the raid was a result of an investigation that began Nov. 4, but declined to elaborate on what triggered the inquiry. Johnson's 25-year-old girlfriend and the couple's two children, ages 3 and 20 months, were at home during the raid, where some of the guns were in plain sight and "a lot" of ammunition was found, police said.
"As far as children being in danger . . . there were loaded weapons and some of them were accessible in the home," Gurnee Police Chief Robert Jones said. "So I think you could draw a conclusion there that yes, they were probably in danger."
If convicted of the charges, Johnson would face a fine. However, the charges could result in the revocation of his probation on a previous gun charge, authorities said.
Thursday's arrest was Johnson's third since the Bears picked him in the second round of the 2004 NFL draft out of the University of Washington.
Johnson posted a $100 bond, which was 10 percent of his $1,000 bond, Thursday night at the Gurnee Police Department after leaving team practice without commenting on the charges. He is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 9 - only days before the Bears will play their first NFC playoff game at Soldier Field.
"Tank's really a good guy and he has worked so hard to do the right things," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "... We'd really miss him if this ends up somehow in him being out. But the main thing I just want him to be OK."
Smith expressed disappointment with what he called a "distraction" for his team as it prepares for Sunday's game at Soldier Field.
"I'm disappointed, of course, that something like this is coming up," Smith said. "We're constantly talking to our players about doing the right thing, and our players do the right thing most of the time."
The Bears already are without one starting defensive tackle because of Tommie Harris' ruptured hamstring injury that sent him to injured reserve for the remainder of the season. Johnson has 20 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks this season.
What, if anything, the NFL may do in the Johnson situation remains to be seen. The league suspended cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. for the Nov. 26 game at New England because of a no-contest plea in a felony assault case but the suspension came months after the incident.
The NFL typically waits until some resolution is reached in legal proceedings and discipline on the matter could stretch into next season.
"This will be reviewed under the terms of the personal conduct policy ... all the facts are relevant including a player's prior history," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
According to the language in the league's personal conduct policy, Aiello explained the NFL is unlikely to suspend Johnson unless he is convicted.
Gurnee police and officers from the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System descended on the home about 11 a.m. with shields and armored vehicles, alarming neighbors, some of whom police had asked to evacuate the neighborhood.
An explosion was heard, rattling neighbors' homes, which police said was used as a diversionary tactic because of the threat of weapons being used during the raid.
"We knew there were weapons in the house ... we also knew there were more than likely people in the house so we did not know what we would encounter," Jones said. "The officers took the necessary precautions for their safety and the safety of the neighborhood."
Johnson's previous skirmishes with the law appeared to have been resolved last March, when prosecutors dropped battery and resisting arrest charges.
Those charges had been filed against Johnson in February when a police officer who scuffled with Johnson outside a Rush Street nightclub refused to proceed with the case, authorities said.
Johnson's February arrest also led to violation of probation charges being filed against him. He had been placed on 18 months' probation in November 2005 after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor unlawful gun possession charge in Cook County, authorities said.
The violation of probation charges also were dismissed when the battery case was dropped, although new charges could be filed against Johnson because of his latest arrest, prosecutors said.
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