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Probation, mental health treatment ordered for man who posed as firefighter

| March 3, 2023

NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (March 3, 2023) – The man who once pulled over actor and former pro-wrestler Dave Bautista while posing as an undercover cop was sentenced in New Philadelphia Municipal Court this morning for impersonating a firefighter.

33-year-old Jesse J. Johnson of Massillon will spend two years on probation as part of his punishment for claiming to be a York Township volunteer on his way to an apartment fire during a traffic stop in Strasburg last September. Police Chief Dave Warrick says the fire itself was real but not the rest of Johnson’s story.

“He was questioned as to why he was heading to the fire. He said he was going to assist. Here to find out, he’s not a current firefighter anywhere.”

Johnson was driving through the village with flashing lights on top of his Jeep when Officer Conner Bailey stopped him. There is a Jesse Johnson on the Ohio volunteer firefighter registry. That Jesse lives in Ravenna.

“I have been in law enforcement since 2007, and this is the first time I have dealt with anything of this sort or this agency has dealt with anything like this,” Warrick says. “You hear about it on national news but nothing around here so it was very unusual.”

The Jesse Johnson who was in court today has three previous impersonation convictions in Stark County: for claiming to be a Canal Fulton firefighter while trying to buy gear in 2007, the incident with Batista in 2008; and one in 2013 where he shattered the rear window of a vehicle with a baton while posing as a Walmart security guard. Strasburg Prosecutor Steve Anderson recommended the probationary period with the stipulation that Johnson undergoes mental health treatment.

“The defendant obviously had some prior similar situations where he has impersonated but we also know that he’s had cognitive issues and has had competency evaluations, so from the state’s standpoint it was my feeling and it was our feeling that getting him into a treatment program, putting him on paper for 24 months far exceeded just putting him in jail.”

Magistrate Michael Dailey doled out the punishment, also ordering and suspending a six-month jail term that he could impose if Johnson doesn’t comply with the terms of his supervision or commits further crimes:

“When you do things like this you’re putting yourself in danger. You’re putting the public in danger. Luckily, no one was injured in this situation and it doesn’t sound like there was any malicious intent, but there are people with malicious intent and numerous people have been injured or taken advantage of because of other situations. I’ve taken all of that into account and we’re going to give you the opportunity to get counseling to help you with any issues that you may have so that this doesn’t happen again and the public’s safe.”


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