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Man charged in Baltimore Burger King barricade hangs himself in prison day after receiving 123-year sentence

George Johnson was charged with taking hostages, reckless endangerment, firearm violations and auto theft in a 2016 incident in Southwest Baltimore.
George Johnson was charged with taking hostages, reckless endangerment, firearm violations and auto theft in a 2016 incident in Southwest Baltimore. (Baltimore police)

An inmate at the Jessup Correctional Institution hanged himself in his cell the day after receiving a 123-year sentence in Baltimore Circuit Court.

George Johnson, 28, was found unresponsive on the floor of his cell by an officer making rounds on Friday night, a prison system spokesman confirmed. The medical examiner’s office determined he died of asphyxiation by hanging.

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Johnson was convicted in October of four counts of false imprisonment and four counts of reckless endangerment for an incident in which he led police on a chase, then held people hostage inside of a Southwest Baltimore Burger King last year.

Johnson was acquitted of the most serious charges he faced, including first- and second-degree assault and use of a firearm in a violent crime counts.

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Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn on Thursday sentenced him to 123 years for the misdemeanor convictions.

Johnson’s defense attorney, Anne Marie Gering, said Thursday that the sentence was “very excessive and demoralizing” to Johnson. She said he never threatened any of the hostages, but was trying to formulate a plan to escape the police. His sentencing guidelines, a suggested sentence based on the conviction and prior criminal history, called for between one and 17 years in prison.

False imprisonment in Maryland is a “common law” charge with no prescribed penalty except that it not be “cruel and unusual.” Phinn sentenced Johnson to 25 years for each count of false imprisonment.

“There needs to be a statutory maximum given to that charge to give guidance for what we intend the maximum to be,” Gering said.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, in a statement, said: “I pray that the victims in this case will be able to heal from the emotional scars caused by such a traumatic experience.”

Prosecutors said that in July 2016, an officer on routine patrol in the 3400 block of Calloway Avenue recognized a gold GMC Yukon being sought in connection with a rape that had occurred the day before.

Johnson fled and a chase ensued for nearly a half-hour, ending when he got into a crash at North Monroe and Washington Boulevard. Prosecutors said Johnson was armed with a handgun and fled into the nearby Burger King. They say he forced three employees and a seven-year-old girl into the manager’s office and would not let them out.

After several hours of a standoff, two employees were released.

An armed man suspected in a recent rape took four people hostage — including a 7-year-old girl — inside a Baltimore Burger King after evading police Sunday, authorities said.

Johnson made one hostage toss his gun out of the drive-through window before he walked out of the restaurant with the remaining two hostages. Police recovered Johnson’s loaded semi-automatic handgun outside.

Prosecutors said Johnson was transported to BPD headquarters, and admitted to fleeing from the police because he had a gun in his car. He also admitted to causing the collision and holding the four hostages captive inside the restaurant, prosecutors said.

Previously, in March, Johnson was also acquitted of the most serious charges in the rape case. In that case, he was sentenced to two years for second-degree assault.

After a nearly five and half hour standoff police arrest an armed man suspected in an alleged rape who took four people hostage — including a 7-year-old girl — inside a Baltimore Burger King after evading police Sunday. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

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