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Man charged with assault in dispute over Athens panhandling location

James Richard Johnson

By Joe Johnson

A man was arrested over the weekend for an altercation involving a knife during a dispute over a panhandling location.

James Richard Johnson, 56, of Social Circle, on Saturday afternoon allegedly threatened to slit the throat of a 69-year-old homeless man who was panhandling at the Chevron station and Food Mart at 1190 Commerce Road.

According to an Athens-Clarke County police report, Johnson yelled the death threat as he approached the victim, swinging a knife.

The victim reported that he and Johnson had argued over the panhandling spot earlier in the day, and the suspect later went after him as he stood on a corner at the gas station, according to the police report.

An employee at the business was able to retrieve video surveillance camera footage that showed Johnson quickly walking toward the victim while holding a knife, according to the police report, which noted that the victim said he continued to walk backwards to avoid getting cut.

The video footage showed other people who were trying to keep Johnson away from the victim. One of those witnesses reportedly told an officer that Johnson “tried to stab him,” referring to the victim.

Johnson admitted to having a dispute with the victim concerning a sign, and that after the victim punched him, he punched back, according to the report.

Johnson made no mention of a knife, but an officer reportedly located one at the scene.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Johnson continued to be held at the county jail without bail being set.

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