GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Christopher Johnson, the Adams County man suspected in the Nov. 11 murder of a Game Commission officer, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges Friday morning.
Johnson also requested a trial by jury during a formal arraignment before Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael George. His trial was tentatively scheduled for June 6.
Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner filed paperwork during the arraignment seeking the death penalty for Johnson if the 27-year-old is found guilty of first-degree murder.
Wagner stated in the Notice of Aggravating Circumstances that Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove was a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, that the intentional killing was committed during the course of a felony, and that Grove was an eyewitness to that felony and was killed so that he could not testify.
Johnson, of Fairfield, had been stopped by the 31-year-old Grove for suspected deer poaching in the 300 block of Shrivers Road in Freedom Township and was not permitted to possess a firearm because of a previous burglary conviction, according to court documents in the case.
The documents stated that Johnson, fearing his return to prison, pulled a .45 caliber handgun as he was being handcuffed and fired at Grove several times. Grove sustained three gunshot wounds including a fatal wound to the neck. Ten rounds from the officer's gun were recovered from the shooting scene.
Johnson sustained a gunshot wound to the hip in the incident and was arrested at a hunting cabin following an 11-hour manhunt.
Grove, also of Fairfield, is the first Game Commission officer shot and killed in the line of duty since 1915.