A Washington, D.C., man charged with major drug and gun offenses escaped from a high-security Virginia jail and eluded capture for days, the News4 I-Team learned.
The escape, blamed on "human error," triggered a manhunt by the U.S. Marshals Service.
Demetrius Antonio Johnson, 37, is charged with distributing fentanyl, heroin and crack cocaine and faces a potential life sentence in prison.
His face and name were featured on FBI wanted posters before his initial arrest earlier this summer, yet the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Virginia, mistakenly allowed him to walk out Tuesday.
U.S. marshals told the I-Team they captured Johnson in D.C. Thursday as he rode in a car along South Capitol Street near Nationals Park — three hours away from the jail.
“Johnson was mistakenly grouped with (Piedmont Regional Jail) prisoners scheduled for release” on Tuesday, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.
“Johnson exited the facility in civilian clothes and was provided a check as though he was being released," charging documents said. "While he was being processed, Johnson told an officer at the jail he had a ride coming to get him, or words to that effect.”
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“This was a case of human error,” Piedmont Regional Jail supervisor James H. Davis told the I-Team.
Davis said surveillance cameras captured video of Johnson walking up a hill outside the jail and then out of sight.
Johnson was not scheduled for release Tuesday. Court records indicate he is being held indefinitely until further proceedings in his federal drug and gun case.
Davis cited multiple errors in the incident. He said the jail only releases inmates who are picked up by a third party at the jail entrance. Davis said no one appeared to pick up Johnson, yet he was allowed to walk off the grounds.
Davis and the U.S. Marshals Service said Johnson is back in the custody of U.S. marshals but will not be kept at the Piedmont Regional Jail.
“We don’t want him here,” Davis told the I-Team.
Johnson’s federal drug and gun case received notoriety in June, when the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced criminal charges. Johnson was charged along with two others with conspiracy to distribute drugs. The case included field work by Fairfax County police, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
The FBI added Johnson’s name to its Most Wanted List later in June to help its efforts to find Johnson after the charges were announced. Court records reviewed by the I-Team said officers eventually arrested Johnson in North Carolina last week.
An attorney for Johnson did immediately respond to request for comment.