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Police report: Tech stabbing suspect confessed, said he ‘snapped’

Sanity commission appointed to vet possible insanity plea
Caleb Daniel
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Stabbing suspect Jacoby Johnson is apprehended at Kidd Commons, some 1,500 feet south of the stabbing incident at the Lambright Sports & Wellness Center on Nov. 13. Johnson told law enforcement he was on his way to the dining hall on Tech campus when he was arrested. This photo, submitted to the Leader, was taken by a student from a campus apartment.

The man accused of stabbing a woman to death and injuring three others on Louisiana Tech University campus allegedly confessed to police on the day of the incident, saying he “snapped” from stress and anger.

A police report, filed in 3rd Judicial District Court as evidence against 23-year-old Jacoby Johnson, alleges Johnson admitted to carrying out the attack under questioning from Louisiana Tech Assistant Police Chief Bill Davis at Northern Louisiana Medical Center on Nov. 13, while being treated for a cut he received during the incident.

Johnson, a Tech student, also reportedly admitted he may have continued his attack elsewhere on campus if he hadn’t been arrested.

He’s slated to have his mental capacity evaluated by a court-appointed sanity commission, with a sanity hearing set for Jan. 23, 2024.

He’s charged with one count of second-degree murder and three counts of attempted second-degree murder after allegedly attacking four women with a pocketknife outside the Lambright Sports & Wellness Center on Tech campus, leading to the death of local artist Annie Richardson the following evening.

Tech police apprehended Johnson and recovered the knife outside the Kidd student apartment complex, some 1,500 feet south of the Lambright, about four minutes after receiving 911 calls from the sports center, according to Davis’ report.

Johnson was taken to the NLMC emergency room to be treated for a cut on his hand. That’s where he confessed to the stabbings and said he didn’t plan them, Davis wrote.

He allegedly told Davis he had been under stress with school, and he was walking around when he “snapped, felt stressed and got really angry,” saying he suddenly “wanted to attack people.”

Tech and Ruston police repeatedly said in the week following the incident that it was a random attack with seemingly no motive.

At Johnson’s initial court hearing on Nov. 15, 3rd District Judge Thomas Rogers ordered he be held without bond and that a sanity commission be appointed.

Sanity commissions investigate whether a defendant is mentally capable of understanding the court proceedings against him and assisting in his defense.

In this case, Rogers also tasked the commission with investigating whether a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is warranted.

After hearing the committee’s findings, a judge makes the ultimate ruling on the defendant’s ability to proceed.

Also during the hearing, 3rd District Attorney John Belton's office filed a bill of information officially charging Johnson with three counts of attempted second-degree murder.

Charges that could carry a life sentence, like murder, must go before a grand jury for a bill of indictment. After Richardson died, Belton said he would take the second-degree murder charge to a grand jury as soon as possible.

At the hearing, Johnson's court-appointed defense attorney entered an initial plea of not guilty. The plea can be changed until a trial begins.

Rogers and fellow 3rd District Judge Monique Clement have since recused themselves from Johnson’s case, citing their familiarity with one of the victims, former judge Cynthia Woodard.

According to Davis’ report, the first person Johnson threatened that morning said Johnson was grinning at him as he opened his knife.

Between witness interviews and Lambright security footage, investigators determined Johnson initially threatened 21-year-old Joel Grimble with his pocketknife inside the sports center’s red basketball gym after trying to steal Grimble’s phone from his pocket at the equipment checkout desk.

“Grimble said that Johnson grinned at him and continued toward him,” the report states. “So Grimble ran from the gym and toward the east entry doors.”

Grimble told police he warned employees at the check-in desk that “he has a knife” as he made his exit.

It wasn’t until after Grimble escaped that Johnson fell upon the women outside the Lambright entrance.

The women victims are all white. Johnson and Grimble are Black.

Johnson admitted to the initial encounter with Grimble when questioned by Davis, according to the police report, saying he went after a “dude with an afro.”

Davis asked Johnson where he was headed after leaving the Lambright, before he was apprehended. Johnson said he was making his way to the dining hall in the Tech Student Center.

“I asked Johnson what he was going to do when he got to the (dining hall), and he said he was going to get something to eat,” Davis wrote. “I asked him if he thought he might attack anyone while there and he said, ‘probably so.’”