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Dave Roepke, Published October 30 2010

Moorhead school bus driver arrested for child porn

A 50-year-old bus driver who was contracted to run Moorhead school routes is facing felony child pornography charges, accused of having more than 1,000 images and videos at his home.

Police didn’t realize Eric Gunnar Johnson, 210 2nd St. NW, Dilworth, drove a school bus until a search warrant was executed at his home on Wednesday, said Dilworth Police Chief Dave Miller.

Johnson’s son told police about his father’s occupation, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in Clay County District.

Upon learning Johnson drove school buses, police decided to arrest him immediately, Miller said.

Johnson was sitting in a school bus at Moorhead High School waiting to take the next route when he was picked up, Miller said.

“It was instantaneous,” Miller said.

Clay County Jail records show Johnson was booked into the jail at 1:53 p.m., a jail official said.

Thirteen counts of possessing child pornography were filed against Johnson, who made an initial court appearance Friday. Bail was set at $30,000 bond or $3,000 cash, and he bailed out Friday afternoon.

Called multiple times Friday, the telephone at Johnson’s home was busy.

Miller said based on the initial investigation, there is no indication of abuse of any children on Johnson’s routes, though police will continue to investigate that possibility.

Police allegedly found in excess of 1,000 images and videos of minors engaging in sexual conduct or posing explicitly, including multiple images of a 1-year-old child being abused, according to court records.

“Even for veteran officers, it’s kind of the black area of law enforcement,” Miller said. “It’s extremely disturbing.”

Johnson was working for a Moorhead-based contractor, Richards Transportation Services, that handles about half of the district’s bus routes, said Dan Bacon, the district’s director of property services and transportation.

Wayne Kazmierczak, the assistant superintendent, said it was his understanding that Johnson had been a longtime Richards employee who had handled a variety of Moorhead routes over several years.

Both school officials said they weren’t aware of any parent complaints about Johnson, and Kazmierczak said the district hadn’t had any problems with him in the past.

Kazmierczak said school officials urge parents with any information concerning Johnson to call police. He said the district plans to work closely with police on the follow-up investigation.

Johnson had no criminal record, Miller said.

“The bus company would have never been aware of it. The school would have never been aware of it,” the police chief said.

Bacon said state officials run background checks at two-year intervals on anyone licensed to drive school buses, and the contractor also conducts background checks.

“People break trust, I guess,” Bacon said.

Phone messages left for Richards Transportation on Friday afternoon were not returned.

Miller said a pair of out-of-town officers tipped off area police to the allegations: a Minneapolis police officer who is a member of the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force and a Homeland Security agent based in Grand Forks who had contacted a North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent.

Police allege in court records that they seized three computers, 12 CDs containing images and videos, one Internet router, two thumb drives and an envelope that contained e-mail addresses.

According to the court complaint, Johnson admitted to investigators, after being arrested, that any child pornography found in the house was his.

Each of the 13 counts of child pornography possession can carry a maximum prison term of five years, if Johnson is convicted.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535