Riverhead Teacher Allegedly Drove Drunk With Loaded Gun

Southampton Village police say man had a semiautomatic .45.

A man pulled over in Southampton Village early Saturday morning was found not only allegedly to be driving drunk with a suspended license — but also unlawfully in possession of a loaded handgun, according to police. He also teaches fourth grade in the Riverhead Central School District.

said that Joe Johnson, 38, of Southampton, was charged with two felony counts and one misdemeanor count of criminal possession of a weapon around 3:36 a.m. Saturday on Hill Street after he was arrested for DWI and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, both misdemeanors.

Johnson had a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol, police said.

On Tuesday, Riverhead School District Superintendent Nancy Carney confirmed that Johnson is an employee of the district. He is employed as a fourth grade teacher at the Phillips Avenue Elementary School, Carney said.

"The Riverhead Central School District is monitoring the matter and will of course cooperate with the Southampton Village Police Department," Carney wrote in an email. "Mr. Johnson has been administratively reassigned to his home, effective immediately. Any further action, if and when appropriate, will be taken after the charges are addressed by the court."

A former graduate of the district, Johnson has been involved with athletics and spoken to students a number of years ago about saying no to drugs.

Bail was set at $3,000 during his arraignment at Saturday morning. Police said the investigation is ongoing.


Lisa Finn (Editor) April 24, 2012 at 09:17 PM
From our Riverhead Patch Facebook readers: Joanna De Leon: Omg that was my 4th grade teacher! about an hour ago via mobile · Like Sue Farrell: Everyone needs to keep in mind that this did not happen when he was working. It should not affect his job long term as long as his teaching record is good. I've always heard positive things about the man. I hope he can get things worked out.
Diane Barba April 24, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Are you joking? This man was driving drunk with a suspended license AND in posession of a loaded weapon. Let him be responsible for your kids!
IAmMe April 25, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Atleast he didnt shoot an innocent 17-year old for walking home with skittles and and iced tea!!!!!!
Lisa Finn (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Here's what some of our Riverhead Patch Facebook readers are saying: Karen Mellinger Poorman I always wonder what people are thinking when they leave the house with a gun: whether in the car or on their person. They must either feel threatened enough to think that they might have to kill someone in self defense or they are looking for trouble. 3 hours ago · Like · 1 Nikki Maccagli i was in love with this man until i saw this.. and hes still a teacher and the jv bball coach..riverhead sucks with staff first our principal now him.. sadd 3 hours ago · Like Melissa Spero Messina I have no WORDS, @ Sue he deff should lose his job what kind of role model is this?? Not one I want for my kids I dont care what his teaching record is! 2 hours ago · Like · 1 Veronica Mcfarlin That is sad! about an hour ago · Like Laurie Raynor Really? No one knows what he was personally going through. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, is that correct Melissa? I have been with someone who had drinking problems & other issues, it is not an easy thing to go through. Yes he obviously made a VERY bad decision but who are WE to crucify him? What a bunch of hypocrites!! Amazing!! about an hour ago · Like
Lisa Finn (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 01:20 AM
And more: Melissa Spero Messina ‎Laurie Raynor, You are very right! I too understand the drinking problem thing, I just think that when you break the law you have to pay the penalty right? and unfortunitly his job is teaching elementary children this whole situation is very sad, but we need to protect our kids right? about an hour ago · Like · 1 Laurie Raynor Absolutely! Protecting our children is all well & good. He obviously has a drinking problem. He isn't child molester. He of course broke the law & should be punished according to the law. That will be diced with the attorneys & the judge. Not us people on Facebook! We all love the man when he was teaching our students (by the way he is an excellent teacher) but when he falls, we kick him while he is down.
Lisa Finn (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 01:22 AM
We appreciate all your comments and thoughts on this issue, and welcome dialogue. Please, though, keep your comments civil. Any posts containing profanity will be deleted.
FFields April 25, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I have had multiple encounters with this man in his role as a teacher. He was always well spoken, engaged his students and was well respected by his kids. What he does on his own time is his decision. There are many people out driving while impaired on drugs who are lawyers, nurses, doctors and your next door neighbor. While in the class room, he was a fine role model. But I am always amazed at how quick we are to condemn someone like this as being a poor role model and then go buy tickets to a pro-ball game where players have been accused of steroid use, carrying illegal guns, being present in their own house when someone is shot....we put the professional athletes on a pedestal and the every day guy is being crucified. The only thing between many of you and him is the fact that he got caught. As for the gun....not a smart idea, but none of you know why he had it. Perhaps where he lives gives him cause to have that. We all do stupid things, and we can all justify why we do them. Just because he is a teacher doesn't mean he is dangerous to the kids he works with or that he is any more offensive because of his occupation. Everyone is jumping to conclusions about his character based on this story.
REMARKABLE April 25, 2012 at 12:35 PM
As this is at least his 2nd DWI (1 in 2006) severe action needs to be taken when he is convicted. What was he doing at 3:30 a.m. drunk with a loaded gun in his possession. He just blew his second chance and if found guilty should be terminated. The gun was not liscensed and therefore there is no excuse for carrying it FFields. To bad he wasn't drug tested along with the alcohol test it would have been interesting to see the results. Again, if convicted he should be terminated. Like I stated he was given a 2nd chance after his first DWI and thus does not deserve a 3rd!
THE SOCIAL WORKER April 25, 2012 at 05:32 PM
is he being paid to be @ home
Jaguar-Guy April 26, 2012 at 10:13 AM
LOCK THIS CHUMP UP!! I do not care whether he graduated all his students and is "Aces". He is a criminal menace, a danger to our families and WHO carries a loaded weapon !!?? No, he has an obligation to PROTECT our children, and driving drunk - he could have KILLED some of them. He is a teacher, must be held to a higher standard, and must be punished for his criminal acts - once they plead it down.
Laurie Downs April 26, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I can't believe that Parents are defending this man.Nice guy sure but HE HAD A LOADED GUN!! This is a man with a Masters degree..come on he has brains but has no common sense. The man don't deserve to keep his job.If he is convicted of a felony he will never step foot in the school again..And that should make parents happy
Anton May 01, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I agree people are innocent until proven guilty, but if you are driving drunk at 330 am with a loaded weapon in the vehicle, chances are pretty good you're not patrolling for the neighborhood watch. Who knows what might have happened had he not been caught by the police.
Anton May 01, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I wonder how quick people would be to defend him had he, in his poor judgement, brought the loaded gun to school or a ballgame in his briefcase and a child got hold of it and shot another child accidentally.
THE SOCIAL WORKER May 01, 2012 at 05:19 PM
This is the kind of stuff that led me to send my children to Mercy. Not that it's perfect but what kind of character and integrity did he have in the classroom. Does anyone know if he is at home with or without pay?
Lisa Finn (Editor) May 01, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Thank you for your comments . . . Dialogue is critical when it comes to these serious issues. . . What do you think about this arrest?
FFields May 01, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I think that any parent has a right to defend his teaching ability and his work in the classroom. The "act" for sure is egregious and unlawful but significantly separate from the school where he works. Many people are asking "what-if?" I agree that there are a multitude of what-ifs however none of them happened. I hope that everyone who holds a teacher to a higher standard will shine in comparison. It is an unfortunate decision and one that has changed the course of this man's and family's life. Master's degree or not, it is no guarantee of higher intelligence or common sense. Surgeons can be brilliant in the OR, but it isn't a guarantee that the decisions they make outside of there are any smarter than the next door neighbor's dog. Everyone should be held to the same standard regardless of their profession and in the eyes of the law we are. It is illegal to drive drunk whether you are a teacher, a garbage man, artist, singer, whatever...the law is there to punish them. Same thing for possessing an firearm without a license. My guess is that he will probably lose his license to teach. My post was geared more towards encouraging people to think first, then comment, without passing judgment. Not a difficult concept to grasp.
THE SOCIAL WORKER May 08, 2012 at 04:39 PM
what ever happened to him??


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something