Lake Helen ex-con killed in Feb. 1 crash after fleeing DeLand cops identified

Photos for Headline Surfer® / The fatal crash scene that took the life of Justin L. Johnson, 26. The Lake Helen man is shown in a mug shot from his Dec. 25 arrest on gun and drug possession charges.
Headline Surfer

DELAND, Fla. - An ex-con from Lake Helen was killed on early Wednesday morning when he crashed his car while speeding away from a traffic stop, a DeLand official said.

Justin L. Johnson, 26, was identified as the traffic fatality victim.

Here is a synopsis of what occurred 2:50 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 1, as described by DeLand city spokesman Chris Graham in an email to Headline Surfer: "The officer conducted a traffic stop in the vicinity of Plymouth and Orange avenues on this vehicle which matched the description provided, A white Chevrolet Sport Utility, to investigate what was occurring. At this point, there weren’t many details. The vehicle stopped and the male driver acknowledged he was arguing with his girlfriend." 

Graham continued, "As the investigation proceeded suspected drugs were in plain view inside the SUV at which time the driver was asked to exit the vehicle. Officer Tony Tagle began to assist the driver out of the vehicle when the driver started the engine.  The driver pulled the door shut and Officer Tagle’s hand was trapped. He was then dragged several feet before freeing himself. The officer suffered an injury to his left hand. The vehicle sped away." 

Graham added, "Around 2:57 a.m., another DeLand officer was responding from West Beresford Avenue, traveling north on South Stone Street when he came upon a crash scene in the 100 block of South Stone Street. A small fire in the engine compartment was extinguished. It was the determined the driver, and a dog( inside the vehicle), had died in the crash. The vehicle was determined to be the same that fled from Officer Tagle."

The officer was treated at the hospital for his hand injury and released.

Johnson, who was released from prison in February 2013 after serving four years for attempted robbery with a firearm, was scheduled to go on trial on March 20, on charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a scheduled substance and resisting an officer without violence. He was arrested on Christmas Eve after cops said they found a loaded 9-mm Taurus pistol and some marijuana in the car he was driving after pulling him over. Johnson ran from police but was apprehended after being Tasered.

Johnson was free on $8,000 bail, at the time of the fatal crash. His criminal record dates back to 2009 and shows that he has been arrested for battery on a school officer and grand theft.

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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.