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Sheriff: Inmate Started Fire in Lee County Jail

Posted February 14, 2008

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— An inmate alone in his cell started a fire at the Lee County Jail around 2 p.m. Thursday, according to the sheriff's department.

Tony Wade Johnson, 42, set fire to paper articles and then got his mattress to catch on fire, Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said. Johnson probably used a lighter and was alone in his cell.

The smoldering fire spread a lot of smoke, forcing approximately 90 percent of the jail to be evacuated, Carter said. Inmates have since returned inside the jail.

Some people inside the jail reported smoke inhalation. Two jail officials and one inmate were treated at Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford but were expected to be OK, Carter said.

Johnson will appear in court Friday morning to face charges stemming from the fire. He might be charged with multiple counts of attempted murder, Carter said.

Johnson, who awaiting sentencing on charges of impersonating an officer, second-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault, will be transferred to another correctional facility within the next 24 hours.


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  • Dr. Dataclerk Feb 15, 2008

    I liked that they are hopefully transferring him to tighter security. But meanwhile, where was the guards while he was setting fires? Why did he have access to a lighter, period? Maybe some new rules news need to made so that this will not occur ever again.

  • OOOFFFF Feb 14, 2008

    i think we should use tax money and buy the guy a nice pillow-top mattress, 600 thread count egyptian cotton sheets, and a feather comforter

  • skinnycow Feb 14, 2008

    They should have transferred whatever was left of that burnt mattress to whatever prison he was sent to so that he would have a place to sleep.

  • drnc Feb 14, 2008

    I'd like to know why he was able to start a fire. I also think they should have let it burn until he was very scared.

  • SaveEnergyMan Feb 14, 2008

    Let the fire burn and then make him sleep on what's left. That's not cruel - it's learning to take responsibility for one's actions.