CHARLOTTE — 9 Investigates has uncovered that a convicted felon accused of threatening to blow up Fort Mill High School also worked at the post office.
We first reported on Tuesday when police said they found pipe bombs in the suspect’s south Charlotte apartment. Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz has been digging into the case since then.
Sáenz discovered the United States Postal Service hired Derek Johnson less than two weeks before his arrest -- on Oct. 7. That’s also one week before authorities said he called in a bomb threat to Fort Mill High School.
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Now, some in the postal service industry are troubled not only by how he got the job, but about the what-ifs, too.
Johnson, 50, was arrested after a threat was called in less than a mile away from the high school -- at the well-known Peach Stand. Authorities were on him quickly, descending on his south Charlotte apartment and finding two pipe bombs, a pistol and more.
Their findings included a USPS ID badge with Johnson’s name on it. 9 Investigates was able to confirm that Johnson worked for the post office.
“It was scary. It was alarming,” Miriam Bell said.
Bell is the president of the Charlotte chapter of the American Postal Workers Union.
“It’s frightening to know that people are being hired with no background checks, no accountability,” she told Sáenz.
Bell said it’s disturbing to think about someone like Johnson, who police say had weapons of mass destruction, being inside a postal facility.
“He had access to the facility,” she said. “There’s no screening when you come up to the door to accept your ID. He had access to the trucks.”
She blames holes in the USPS hiring process.
For two days, Sáenz has been trying to get more details from the agency about Johnson’s hiring and role there. Sáenz got a written statement saying the agency does conduct “...background checks on all new employee applicants,” but Bell insists it doesn’t happen for all of them.
“If they’re telling you they’re doing that, that’s not what’s happening in our area,” she said.
Derek Johnson is a convicted felon and served time in New Jersey for a 1996 burglary. The USPS said that would not have automatically disqualified him from being an employee, which he still is.
After his conversation with Miriam Bell, Sáenz again contacted USPS asking if background checks are being run on new employees or not. He hasn’t heard back.
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