Deputy Marshal and Deputy Sheriff Horace Johnson is pictured here outside the Ville Platte Police Department as he holds his JPX Cobra 450 pepper gun. He is the only certified instructor in the parish for this type of firearm. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
Going the extra yard
Whenever the need arises, a pepper gun is deployed to bring violent criminals into custody. Only one man in Evangeline Parish is certified as an instructor of this specialized weapon, and this man is Ville Platte/Ward 1 Deputy Marshal Horace Johnson.
“I’m the only certified instructor for the Parish of Evangeline with the JPX Cobra 450 pepper gun,” Johnson said. “It shoots out a gel liquid at 402 miles per hour. If a suspect has a knife or a gun that he doesn’t want to put down, I can take him down with that.”
Johnson added he can shoot a target with the pepper gun from 25 to 30 yards away.
“You have to take a class, take the test, and you also get certified in the use and the misuse of it,” Johnson said about the pepper gun training. “And, you also have to get hit.”
Johnson said it is not fun to get hit with the pepper gun, but, as he said, “because of the fact I had been OC (oleoresin capscium) spray certified through the academy twice, I didn’t have to get hit with (the pepper gun).”
He continued, “But, I had to shoot it and also taste it. Once we deployed the gun, we had to put it to the tip of our nose and near our lips and let it sit for about five seconds. Then, we had to let it start activating. It’s really, really hot. It’s two nine-milimeter rounds in a cartridge, and each one consists of 16-ounces of cayenne pepper.”
For the pepper gun to work effectively, it has to be aimed for a person’s chin. “If a person has a weapon and we’re real close,” stated Johnson, “I’ll take a step or two back and deploy one cartridge to the chest. The one to the chest is going to take his attention off of what I’m doing, then I’ll aim for his chin and deploy the other cartridge to take him down and into custody.”
As Johnson explained, once a person is shot with the pepper gun, there are burning effects. “It’s like a burning sensation from hell,” he expressed. “It’s like holding a firework in you hand when it explodes.”
“It comes out as a liquid and spreads,” continued Johnson. “It then stops your breathing passages. It takes 45 minutes for me to decontaminate a person before he is back to normal.”
Johnson recently discharged his pepper gun during last year’s high speed pursuit of Samuel Lee that covered much of the northern part of the parish including parts of Avoyelles Parish. He said, “I’m the one who deployed the pepper gun to put an end to the chase.”
Besides being pepper sprayed certified, Johnson is a 2010 graduate of the St. Martin Parish Law Enforcement Academy and is certified in radar, tasers, and AR-15s among others.
Johnson’ s main duties for the marshal’s office is that of warrants officer. “I go out and execute the outstanding warrant and the warrants for people who missed court. I also do all the civil matters for the marshal’s office. If there’s an eviction, like through the housing authority or regular landlords who have tenants who don’t pay their rent, I go out and get them evicted.”
He continued, “It’s very challenging. I have some good times, and I might have some bad times. But, my job is to make sure everything goes peacefully.”
As a deputy marshal, Johnson is also tasked with working for Ville Platte City Court as a bailiff. He also does “the court writing reports for the office in the judge’s chambers.”
He said about working in the court setting, “It’s challenging, but it’s fun. You learn a lot, and it’s never a dull moment in a courtroom.”
Johnson also puts his law enforcement duties to work for the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office. “I’m out in the field a lot, and I’m in the probation department,” he said. “I process the sex offender warrants and execute outstanding warrants.”
His path in law enforcement began upon graduating from Ville Platte High School in 1992. “I attended USL and took a few courses but was never a full-time student,” Johnson said. “I came back home and worked in the furniture business for several years. I was sales manager and store manager for nine years, but my love for law enforcement came back into my blood.”
“I always had a feel for law enforcement,” he continued. “I always wanted to be a cop since I was young, and I felt that was a need I wanted to do for my community. I love the citizens of Evangeline Parish and Ward 1, and I like doing things for people and the kids in the community.”
Along those line of doing things for children, Johnson was a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor for the Amachi Program in Lafayette and the YOU (Youth Opportunities Unlimited) Program here in Ville Platte.
“I was a mentor at YOU from 2011 until it ended in 2016,” Johnson said. “It was great and I mentored a lot of kids. We graduated 3,000-plus kinds in that program. We put them in a workplace where they worked at different businesses throughout the community. It was an after school job, and they would get paid for doing it.”
He continued, “On Mondays, we would have our meetings where they would say how their job placements went for the week and the whole nine yards.”
All of Johnson’s tasks are done with one thing in mind. He concluded, “I love what I do. I love my job because I love law enforcement, and I love dealing with the public. I am a real people person.”