AUSTIN (KXAN) — Patrick Eugene Johnson is many things: a self-proclaimed tow industry watchdog, an Austin City Council gadfly, a felon, a suspected sexual predator and, now, the man Austin police believe is the Interstate 35 rock thrower, according to Austin police.
APD officials described Johnson as a man “well known” to the department. Officials said Johnson could be responsible for the majority of the more than 90 rock throwing incidents in Austin since 2014.
Johnson, 59, is probably well known to many in Austin’s city government as well. He has been a frequent citizen speaker at City Council meetings dating back to 2005, according to city records.
“My first reaction was — it sort of didn’t surprise me,” said retired APD officer Dennis Farris. “I’ve had interactions with the suspect before, he was a frequent visitor to City Hall.”
Often Johnson has spoken about issues in the towing industry. He founded a website (not a business or non-profit, according to public records searched by KXAN), under the name Texas Towing Compliance. The website claims to be the “definitive authority on towing law in the state of Texas.”
“His passion would boil over to anger. He would get very agitated when he was talking, and if he didn’t feel like people were listening to him or he wasn’t getting his point across, he would raise his voice,” Farris remembers. “That automatically sends up red flags to you.”
But before Johnson operated the website claiming to be a source of legal information, he ran afoul of the law himself several times.
Johnson, standing 6 feet 6 inches tall, according to Williamson County records, has had numerous run-ins with the law. Latest records show Johnson lived in a Travis County mobile home on Frontier Valley Drive.
Johnson appears to have moved around the state before landing in Austin.
Authorities in Beaumont convicted Johnson of theft twice in 1977 and 1982. The 1982 offense was a felony, and a Jefferson County court sentenced him to three years confinement, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records.
Police picked up Johnson again in San Antonio for tampering with a government record in 2000; he was convicted of the crime.
In 2002, state troopers caught Johnson with marijuana near Austin. A Williamson County court convicted him of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.
On April 10, 2013, Austin police charged Johnson with aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony. According to an affidavit, Johnson enticed a 12-year-old boy into his trailer with cigarettes, beer and marijuana. After about a year, Johnson began paying the boy with marijuana and money to perform sex acts, the affidavit states.
Johnson told police he did not engage in any sex acts, and he would mentor young men and give them rides in his car on Saturday nights to “keep them from getting in trouble,” according to the affidavit.
Today, June 16, APD charged Johnson with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
City Council Gadfly
A simple search of Austin City Council meeting minutes shows Johnson has been speaking before council for years and was scheduled to speak as recently as November of 2015.
Most often Johnson has fixated on problems and schemes he perceives in the towing industry.
“Good morning, council, mayor. Y’all know me. I’ve been up here before a couple of meetings,” Johnson said at a May, 7, 2015 meeting. “Today I want to talk to y’all; we’ve had our problems with the police department enforcing the wrecker ordinance.”
In other cases, Johnson’s comments to council appear to veer away from the towing industry toward other societal and criminal issues.
“I want the public to understand human trafficking is not human smuggling. Human trafficking, we read in the media, where these houses around town have been used where, where, they bring the people up from Mexico and they work as prostitution,” he told City Council on Oct. 18, 2007. “That is not just a one-area deal. I can relate to this personally. I’m the neighborhood watch captain in my neighborhood.”
In addition to frequently chiming in at City Council meetings, Johnson often called KXAN to alert the media of different situations around the city.
Johnson regularly called APD as well. He said as much at an April 12, 2007, City Council meeting:
“I probably call 911 more than the average citizen does, reporting anything from drunk drivers, stranded citizens, stranded motorists, road hazards, collisions, crime in progress, and I got to where I know a lot of those call takers,” Johnson said. “They know my voice. I know their voice. They can be rest assured whenever I call they’re going to get the exact location because a lot of times when someone is broke down on the highway or they’re … a collision they don’t have the foggiest idea where they’re at, and the sole reason is for EMS to get the necessary help to the people that need our help.”KXAN intern Sydney Jensen contributed reporting for this article