Marine pleads guilty to Christmas Day shooting

VISTA, Calif. - A Camp Pendleton-based Marine accused of shooting up his Vista apartment complex on Christmas night of last year has pleaded guilty.

Twenty-six-year-old Christopher Johnson, dressed in his Marine uniform, plead guilty before Vista Superior Court Judge Carlos Armour Thursday to one felony count of shooting an occupied dwelling.

On the night of Dec. 25, 2013, Johnson, who has served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, allegedly took Ambien and downed three shots of alcohol. He then fired his .44-caliber Magnum revolver at his flat screen television, out a window and a doorway. No one was hurt.

"We believe PTSD played a large factor in this,” defense attorney Alex Ozols told reporters outside the courtroom.
       
Ozols said Johnson did not remember anything; that he had a history of sleepwalking. Ozols also noted that Johnson surrendered without incident.

“He was shocked when he heard this happened, and he was extremely remorseful this thing happened.”
         
Johnson could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, but may instead be allowed to enroll in Veteran's Court, a treatment program for those having trouble returning to civilian life after combat.

“Everyone that's involved has special interest in, and a specialty in, dealing with veterans; the unfortunate and horrible things they deal with when they come back,” Deputy District Attorney Marnie Layon told 10News.
         
Johnson, who is now living under supervision at Camp Pendleton, said he was drinking that night because it was the anniversary of the deaths of three fellow Marines overseas.

 “Yes, he was active duty combat overseas, both in Iraq and Afghanistan; that's where all the PTSD is stemming from,” Ozols said.
         
In an interview with 10News, Psychologist Dr. Michael Mantell speculated as to whether there was more to the incident than PTSD.

“Yes, he has it, but what else could account for this shooting rampage?” Mantell asked. “Could it be psychosis, severe bipolar disorder, drug abuse, paranoia?”

Judge Armour will sentence Johnson next month.

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