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Sheriff McFadden talks about safety after assault at county courthouse

The sheriff says it’s a collaborative effort with the sheriff’s office, courthouse staff, and the public to make sure everyone is safe.
The suspect is identified as 24-year-old Devonte Johnson, who is a registered sex offender.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 11:45 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden spoke exclusively with WBTV after a man sexually assaulted a woman inside the courthouse building on Tuesday.

CMPD says the man walked right in, reportedly assaulted the woman, then walked right back out. Employees at the courthouse say they were alarmed that the incident was able to happen, especially with deputies around the building.

“It’s kind of shocking, this is the last place you would expecting something like that to happen,” Eric Koehler said.

Sheriff Garry McFadden said Tuesday’s assault is unfortunate, but sadly, assaults happen often in our community.

“It is alarming, assaults happen every day in buildings every day, sometimes they want to focus on law enforcement or the courthouse because it’s the sheriff’s office,” Sheriff McFadden said.

“I would not personally place fault on anybody in particular, I mean things like this can happen pretty much anywhere,” Koehler said. “The best way we can go about this is maybe have a little bit more security presence and I think things will probably work themselves out.”

Authorities arrested 24-year-old Devonte Johnson last night, hours after deputies say Johnson physically and sexually assaulted a woman on the eighth floor of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

He is charged with attempted second-degree forcible rape, attempted second-degree force sex offense and assault on a female, among other charges.

“Yes it happened on government property, yes it happened on our watch but it’s no different than happening somewhere else,” Sheriff McFadden added.

Staffing has been short with the sheriff’s office. Earlier this year, McFadden hired private security to help his deputies secure the courthouse because of the shortage.

WBTV asked the sheriff if having private security could potentially hurt the process.

“No, it does not increase the risk, it actually helps because we’re helping fill in the gaps at the courthouse, these are trained individuals also with a security title certified by the state,” he said.

WBTV asked additional questions too.

Lowell Rose: “What would be a full staffed courthouse?”

Sheriff McFadden: “Well, I don’t have that number offhand what would exactly be the full number.”

Lowell Rose: “Do you know how many people are generally working and securing the building?”

Sheriff McFadden: “Well, I can give you that number but I think that would be unfair.”

Lowell Rose: “Why so?”

Sheriff McFadden: “Because to give the numbers of what we have and what we don’t have.”

Lowell Rose: “I mean these are taxpayer dollars, they’re paying these deputies, this is a public building…”

Sheriff McFadden: “Yeah, but then you’re talking about giving somebody a sense of, a sense of being victimized there, you say they don’t have this so I can go there and victimize them at that point.”

Despite Tuesday’s assault, Sheriff McFadden says the courthouse is safe.

“Think about the last time that the courthouse has seen an incident like this, or any incidents at the courthouse, so let’s not make one incident that now the courthouse is unsafe,” said Sheriff McFadden.

The sheriff said he will review the case and will make changes if needed about staffing and security at the courthouse.

He added it’s a collaborative effort with the sheriff’s office, courthouse staff, and the public to make sure everyone is safe.

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