Police: Shoplifter was murder fugitive from Baltimore

Liz Evans Scolforo

A man wanted for murder in Baltimore managed to avoid capture in his home state, but the fugitive's sticky fingers proved to be his Achilles' heel at the Springettsbury Township Wal-Mart over the weekend, according to police.

Jermall Rachard Johnson, 34, of Baltimore, is being held in York County Prison without bail, awaiting extradition to Baltimore, according to prison records.

Jermall Rachard Johnson was arrested for allegedly shoplifting in the Springetts Walmart, after which police discovered he was wanted on a second-degree murder charge in Baltimore, police said.

He's also being held on a shoplifting charge, but Johnson likely isn't sweating that offense.

Springettsbury Township Police Lt. Tony Beam said officers arrested the fugitive Saturday at Wal-Mart, 2801 E. Market St., after he was caught stealing food and electronics valued at a little more than $300.

Johnson told the arresting officer his name was Kevin Johnson, and when the officer ran that name, it appeared to be legitimate, according to the lieutenant.

"The officer confirmed that person existed," Beam said.

Because the alleged pilferer lives out of state, he was taken to the York County Central Booking Unit to be processed, Beam said. Processing there includes being photographed and having his fingerprints taken and run through crime databases.

Warrant in system: On Sunday morning, sheriff's deputies at the booking unit called Springettsbury officers to say they'd gotten a "hit" on Johnson's prints, and informed police Johnson's real first name was Jermall and that Baltimore City Police had sworn out a warrant for his arrest on charges including second-degree murder, according to Beam.

The lieutenant said his office will add a charge against Johnson of false identification to law enforcement.Beam confirmed that many of the shoplifters arrested by his department come to York from out of state to commit crimes.

York County Sheriff Richard Keuerleber said the reason the booking unit can so often quickly determine people's identity and whether they have warrants is because of the unit's ten-printer machine, which has an optical system that allows officers to fingerprint people on the machine's glass pad, rather than with ink. The ten-printer is connected to various crime databases and sends the prints through them looking for matches.

"When an officer suspects a defendant is giving them the runaround, they have the ability to bring them in and ten-print them to find out who they really are when things aren't matching up in the field," the sheriff said.

'Excellent tool': And while it's not a regular occurrence that deputies discover someone is wanted for murder, it's all part of the job, Keuerleber said. Usually, the sheriff said, municipal officers who drop off defendants at the booking unit to be processed have already accurately determined the person's identity.

"There's times you run (defendants) and find they're wanted in other states on other charges," Keuerleber said. "That's the whole reason you want to ten-print people — to keep the community safe. It's an excellent tool."

People who go to the booking unit with fingerprint orders from local police departments sometimes think they can sneak by without deputies learning about their outstanding warrants, according to the sheriff, who said those people are mistaken.

"A lot of times they walk in with a fingerprint order and they don't walk out," he said. Instead, they're driven to the county lockup.

A Baltimore City Police spokeswoman said a public-affairs employee was trying to gather information about the circumstances of the homicide that Johnson is accused of, but that didn't happen as of Tuesday night.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.