Police: Killer caught with $160K worth of drugs and stolen guns

Liz Evans Scolforo

A killer who previously indicated he "made a vow to God" to someday help save a life — as a way to atone for taking one — was arrested Friday after drug cops raided his home and found $160,000 worth of heroin and cocaine, plus two stolen handguns, according to police.

York City drug detectives said they seized heroin, cocaine and stolen guns from the home of James Romine Johnson on Feb. 19, 2016.

York City narcotics detectives raided James Romine Johnson's 382 E. Maple St. home and seized $141,320 worth of heroin, $10,600 in crack-cocaine, $8,700 in powdered cocaine, $11,040 cash, a stolen Springfield 9mm handgun and a stolen Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun, according to city Detective First Class Andrew Shaffer. The guns were reported stolen from East Prospect and Coatesville, police said.

"Obviously (his vow) wasn't true, because as we are all aware, heroin is killing people on a regular basis here in York County," Shaffer said. "He's not saving lives — he's costing people their lives."

Johnson, 34, is being charged with felony counts of drug possession with intent to deliver, Shaffer said.

The raid: Detectives, with help from the city's Nuisance Abatement Unit and the York County Quick Response Team, raided Johnson's home at 6:01 a.m. Friday, according to the detective, who said QRT was called in because "we had concerns" based on Johnson's manslaughter conviction and because surveillance there found a large number of people going in and out of the house.

Most of the drugs were locked up in the house, but some heroin was found in the living room between couch cushions, according to Shaffer, who said that could have resulted in a dangerous situation if one of Johnson's children had found it.

Johnson wasn't in the home when it was raided, but his girlfriend and at least two young children were, Shaffer said. A responsible relative picked up the children Friday morning, he said.

"(Johnson) was in the area and saw us approaching his house, and he fled the block," the detective said. "He called the house about 10 minutes after we got there. I spoke to him and asked him to turn himself in. ... He almost beat me to my office."

Shaffer said if Johnson hadn't taken responsibility for the drugs and guns, his girlfriend would have been arrested.

"To his credit ... he wanted to keep her out of trouble," Shaffer said. "He did man up and do the right thing."

Manslaughter case: In December 2009, Johnson was sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison after pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter for the Sept. 6, 2008, homicide of 26-year-old Ian Chambers. He also pleaded guilty to being a convicted felon in illegal possession of a firearm, court records state.

He told York City Police he went to the area of West Princess and South Penn streets to buy marijuana and that Chambers tried to rob him, according to court documents.

Johnson said he had to "run for his life" and that Chambers chased him and fired a gun at him, documents state. Johnson said he fired three shots in return, and police have said that evidence from the scene confirmed there were two shooters.

Johnson wrote a letter of apology to Chambers' family around the time of his sentencing. In it, he apologized and accepted "full responsibility" for his actions.

"I made a vow to God and myself to help save a life (someday) since I played a part in taking one," Johnson wrote, calling the homicide "a life-changing experience."

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.