Court filing: Harper prof targeted trucks in retaliation for crash

A Harper College professor charged with shooting at vehicles near Interstate 80 in Iowa told police he targeted truck drivers because he was enraged over a truck crash that killed a family, according to a recent court filing.

Charles Johnston told officers after his Jan. 11 arrest that he wanted to harm at least one truck driver in retaliation for the collision, which he became “obsessed” with, according to a Cedar County sheriff's deputy's written account in a search warrant application. Documents do not state when or where the deadly truck crash occurred.

Johnston, 60, is charged with attempted murder and assault on a peace officer with a dangerous weapon after an exchange of gunfire with state troopers the afternoon of Jan. 11, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

The Belvedere resident also told officers after his arrest he was taking several prescription drugs and recently was hospitalized, the court filing states.

A search of Johnston's black 2013 Volkswagen sedan yielded several prescription pill bottles, according to another court document. The search turned up prescription pill bottles containing marijuana and another medication that didn't match the label, a marijuana pipe, and a box of cigarettes with a marijuana joint inside, the document said.

The property inventory also listed a Smith & Wesson Model 5906 handgun, bullets, magazines and shell casings.

The court filings shed more light on the Jan. 11 shootings near Interstate 80 between Iowa City and the Quad Cities.

Police say they began receiving reports of an individual shooting at vehicles at 2:15 p.m. that day.

A semitrailer truck driver told police he was pulling out of a gas station in the town of Atalissa when the driver of the black Volkswagen pulling in pointed a handgun from the window and fired multiple shots at him. The car circled around the truck, but the semi swerved and struck the car, pinning it under the trailer, authorities said.

The suspect fired several more rounds into the truck's passenger's-side door before exiting onto a nearby road, turning around, parking, and again approaching the truck. The suspect fired two shots at a state trooper who arrived at the scene, and after an exchange of gunfire and brief standoff, police took him into custody, authorities said.

No injuries were reported.

Johnston, an associate professor of psychology at the Palatine-based community college, was barred from campus after his arrest. He is considered absent without approved leave, officials said.

The college's board has scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to take action on a personnel item, though officials on Monday wouldn't say if it had anything to do with Johnston.

He's being held in the Cedar County jail on $1 million bail and is due in court for an arraignment March 2.

Authorities: Harper College professor shot at Iowa state troopers, drivers

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