Police sting leads to drug trafficking charges
by Kellen Short
Police arrested a local man Wednesday on drug trafficking charges after a three-month undercover investigation.
Jerry Wayne Johnson, 54, of 4240 Meat Camp Road, Todd, was charged with three counts of trafficking in opium or heroin, one count of possession with intent to sell or deliver a schedule II controlled substance, and one count or sale or delivery of a schedule II controlled substance, according to police.
Johnson has become a downtown Boone fixture in recent years, selling drinks from a cooler on King Street.
Lt. Chris Hatton of Boone Police Department said he concealed his identity as an officer to become acquainted with Johnson and purchase prescription pain pills from him on several occasions. Hatton said he once took his police K-9, a chocolate lab named Ria, with him as though she were a typical pet to build rapport with Johnson.
"The last deal we did, Wayne made a joke with me speculating about how awkward it would be if I were a police officer, an undercover police officer, and Ria was the drug dog," Hatton said.
Hatton said police had tried to introduce undercover officers to Johnson before with no success.
"We have known about Mr. Johnson being involved in this illegal act for many months, but with drug cases, you can know something, but that doesn't mean you can immediately just go act on it," Hatton said.
Johnson was held at the Watauga Detention Center in lieu of a $50,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 31.
Hatton said the police department was more comfortable releasing details on this case because it does not require them to protect the identities of confidential informants and does not complicate planned future arrests. The Boone Police Department worked with the Watauga County Sheriff's Office on the investigation.
"We have suspected Mr. Johnson's illegal activities for months, and I'm glad our narcotics officers were able to shut down this particular distribution point," Chief Dana Crawford said in a news release. "As always, we are grateful to have the Watauga County Sheriff's Office as our partner in the fight against illegal drugs in our county."