Two men indicted in connection with the Marriott hotel shooting of a Long Island father visiting Poughkeepsie for a Marist College family weekend earlier this month pleaded not guilty Friday, as questions continue to swirl around why the suspected triggerman was even on the streets in the weeks leading up to the death.
A handcuffed and shackled Roy Johnson Jr., the alleged gunman and a known fugitive at the timepleaded not guilty to firing 30 shots in and around the Courtyard by Marriott on Oct. 2, killing Paul Kutz of East Northport.
He did acknowledge he is the same man who has been wanted by law enforcement in Georgia since July on gun and drug charges. The next month, Poughkeepsie city police and the district attorney started looking at him in connection with a gang-related killing locally. But they didn’t arrest him on the active gun warrant out of Georgia at the time.
Numerous law enforcement officials say it was a mistake to leave him on the street, and that there were multiple opportunities to bring him into custody before he allegedly shot up the hotel and killed Kutz.
The district’s office and police for the city of Poughkeepsie attorney have not said when they first checked databases to learn that Johnson Jr. was wanted elsewhere. But several law enforcement sources told NBC New York that Johnson Jr. was believed to be in Poughkeepsie right after the Aug. 9 shooting, and some officials wanted to pick him up.
Several law enforcement sources News 4 that while police wanted to make an arrest, the district attorney and others wanted to wait. The Dutchess County district attorney’s office has said that the office “never made a request to delay an arrest” of Johnson Jr., saying that there was never evidence to warrant an arrest be made in the homicide.
And while police for the city of Poughkeepsie and the district attorney’s office have said they were aware Johnson Jr. had been a fugitive of the law, they said they couldn’t arrest him for one simple reason: They couldn’t find him.
Neither offered additional comment after Friday’s court hearing.
Police for the city of Poughkeepsie said Wednesday that while they were aware the alleged gunman who killed a father in a seemingly random hotel lobby shooting had been a fugitive of the law, they couldn’t arrest him for one simple reason: They couldn’t find him.
“When our office learned of the bench warrant, on multiple charges from the State of Georgia, the city of Poughkeepsie Police were already looking for Johnson, Jr. to speak to him with regard to the August 9, 2022 homicide,” Matthew Weishaupt, chief assistant district attorney for Dutchess County, said in a recent statement.
The city’s police department, which said they were also looking for him in the August homicide, said they were unable to find him because he did not have a permanent address. At the time, sources had told the city’s police department that Johnson Jr. had been hiding from police by staying at hotels in New York and other states.
But despite believing that he had been traveling out of state, multiple law enforcement officials said that police never asked US Marshals, state police or a joint anti-crime task force led by the FBI for help in tracking him down.
He has not been charged in that case. His lawyer said Friday he wasn’t homeless and could have been found.
The US Marshals, FBI, New York State Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Southern District of New York have declined requests for comment on the matter.
As we get our first look at the father killed in a hotel shooting over the weekend, the I-Team is uncovering new information about two men charged in his death — including the alleged gunman who investigators said was also a wanted fugitive. Jonathan Dienst reports .
Also appearing in court Friday was Devin Taylor, who was arrested at the scene with Johnson Jr. and had been staying in a hotel room with him. He faces weapons charges. Police say they found an AR-15-style weapon, bomb manuals and other materials inside the hotel room that an associate had rented for the pair.
Defense lawyers for both men declined to say if their clients were high on drugs during the shooting.
They also asked the judge in the case to step aside because he attended Marist College and has interns from the school. The judge opted to move forward, with a trial for the duo expected to begin in early 2023.
The two men taken into custody for the shooting at a hotel in Poughkeepsie are also being investigated as suspects for a previous robbery and murder, Jessica Cunnington reports.