Twins Arrested In Pit Bull's Death Face New Charges

June 26, 2009|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,

Two teenage twin brothers charged as juveniles with fatally burning a pit bull are being held without bail on new adult charges after police said they raided their Southwest Baltimore rowhouse and found guns and marijuana inside.

Travers and Tremayne Johnson, 17, are each charged with possession of firearms, marijuana and drug paraphernalia, according to police and prosecutors. Court documents say the two were suspects in the dog burning last month, and their father confirmed that they are charged as juveniles with animal cruelty in the case.

The death of the dog, which had been doused with gasoline and set aflame, attracted national attention, led to donations for a reward fund that grew to $26,000 and prompted calls for stiffer penalties in animal cruelty cases. Caregivers, who named the dog Phoenix, had to euthanize the animal because she had burns on 95 percent of her body.

Mayor Sheila Dixon and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III held a news conference about the case, and the officer who found the dog on Presbury Street and used her sweater to put out the flames became a hero. The commissioner has said the animal might have been used in dog fighting.

Charles Johnson, the twins' 75-year-old father, said Thursday that his sons "did not burn anybody's dog. They weren't even there. Some dollar-hungry person wanted the money and put it on my boys."

Baltimore police announced the arrest of the youths June 8 in connection with the dog case but did not release their names because they were charged as juveniles. They canceled a news conference, saying they were conferring with prosecutors on the charges, and officials left open the possibility that the state's attorney's office might not proceed with the case. The youths were released to the custody of their father.

According to court documents, police raided the house in the first block of S. Pulaski St. on June 16 and filed adult charges against the twins two days later. Authorities did not divulge details of that raid and those charges until Thursday.

Details in the newly filed court documents say that detectives have a witness "who positively identified both Travers Johnson and Tremayne Johnson as the individuals who were running out of the alley with the burning dog." The documents also state that the "incident was captured" on police surveillance video.

Police said that when they searched the Pulaski Street house, they found three guns - a loaded .38-caliber Taurus handgun inside a rubber boot, a 20-gauge shotgun and a Marlin Firearms .30-.30-caliber rifle. In addition, police said they found a digital scale with a small amount of marijuana.

Police said that when they raided the house, Charles Johnson told them, "Is there any way you can just lock me up instead of my boys? I'm old and I'm gonna die soon."

Johnson said he did tell police that. And he acknowledged that his sons have faced criminal charges in the past - both for drugs and Tremayne for gun possession. He said all the guns, including the one in the boot, belong to him. "My father left me those guns," he said. "My father gave me those guns before those boys were even born. They've never been shot since then."

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