A high school basketball coach in Hickory has been indicted on counts of statutory rape.
Eyewitness News talked with several students at Hickory High who were stunned to hear news of the arrest.
Earlier this year, coach Shawn Johnson took the men's basketball team all the way to the state finals.
On Tuesday, Johnson appeared briefly before a magistrate where attorney and longtime friend Blair Cody did his best to keep the coach out of view.
“He is as good of a person as I know,” Cody said. “I mean, he is. I have a hard time believing this stuff is true.”
Word of the arrest spread quickly. Less than an hour after Johnson was charged with statutory rape of a teenager and felony sex offense with a student, Eyewitness News talked with several student athletes who had already heard about it.
“He's always a cool guy. Always nice to everybody,” student Zach Murdock said. “And I was just shocked to hear what happened and hope it is not true.”
“He was a really good coach and a pretty good guy, so it is definitely a surprise,” student Tye Jordan said.
Police say the school district first alerted them about the allegations in May after a student came forward. By early June, the district suspended Johnson, who just months earlier led the men's team to the state finals in Chapel Hill.
Investigators said the alleged incidents occurred in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Blake Gibbs worked closely with the coach as the team’s manager last year.
“He wouldn't have did something like that,” Gibbs said. “He's got too much going for him in life. This can't be real.”
Police said their investigation is not over and there may be more charges in the case.
Johnson is scheduled to appear before a judge on Friday in Newton.