37-year-old Sarasota woman in jail under $1.1-million bond in connection with Jan. 1 murder on Main Street

Latoya Johnson has criminal history that includes drug charges, concealment of a handgun and Grand Theft Auto

Latoya Johnson. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

A 37-year-old Sarasota woman has been charged with Murder, Tampering with Evidence, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon in connection with a shooting reported just before 2 a.m. on Jan. 1 on Sarasota’s Main Street, the Sarasota Police Department has reported.

Latoya Johnson of 1575 20th St., in Sarasota is being held in the Sarasota County Jail on bond totaling $1.1 million, the Police Department noted. The bond for the murder charge is $1 million, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections Division. Bond for each of the other two charges is $50,000, the Corrections Division records show.

Johnson was identified as unemployed in those records.

Her arraignment has been scheduled for Feb. 4, the records note.

“Sarasota Police officers were working the New Year’s Eve event on Main Street when they were alerted to a shooting” at 1429 Main St., a Police Department news release explains. Patellini’s Pizza is the business located at that address.

During their investigation, the release added, officers determined that an adult male had been shot. The man was transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where he later died as a result of his injuries, the release said. The name of the victim is being withheld under the guidelines of the state’s Marsy’s Law, which allows victims of crimes to maintain privacy.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the news release continued, Sarasota Police officers went over to speak with a group of people, including Johnson, who were gathered in front of The DeSota apartment complex. That building stands at 1415 Second St.

Officers had obtained a descripion of the alleged shooter from witnesses, the release noted.

This is a view of The DeSota apartment complex on Second Street in Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

“As officers approached the group [with Johnson],” the release pointed out, “they saw Johnson conceal a firearm in a planter in the area. The firearm was recovered by officers.”

“Video from inside the [pizza restaurant] showed Johnson and several other people sitting at a table against the wall,” the release explained. “The victim and his family were seated at a table in the outside patio area.” One of the family members appeared intoxicated and trying not to get physically sick, the release said. After that family member began walking toward the interior of the restaurant, the release continued, he passed Johnson and her group. He appeared to vomit on one of the people with Johnson, the release added.

Johnson and the other members of her party rose, “approached the family member and a fight started,” the release continued. “Johnson is seen on video holding a black firearm in her right hand as she kicked people on the ground,” the release said. “At the same time, the victim is seen running towards the fight and attempting to defend his family by hitting Johnson on her head. Johnson turned to the victim and shot him,” the release added.

Patellini’s Pizza is the business where the shooting was reported. Image from Google Maps

Witnesses confirmed to officers that they heard a single gunshot, the release noted. “The incident took 37 seconds,” the release said.

A history of criminal cases

Johnson has a Florida criminal history that includes seven felony convictions, the release pointed out.

Among them, in June 2008, she was sentenced to three years at a state prison after being convicted on a charge of Carrying a Concealed Firearm, the release said.

The Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court records show that Johnson was arrested at 2020 Main St. in October 2007 on a warrant for violation of probation and transported to the Jail in downtown Sarasota. During a search of Johnson’s person, the probable cause affidavit said, a female deputy found a .38-caliber gun hidden in Johnson’s underwear. The gun contained two bullets, “which made [it] readily able for firing,” the affidavit pointed out.

Prior to that incident, court records show, Johnson was arrested on May 30, 2007, on a felony charge of possession of cocaine and a misdemeanor count of possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. That arrest took place in the 1800 block of East Avenue in Sarasota, the probable cause affidavit noted.

At the time of that incident, Johnson was a passenger in a 1993 Toyota Camry with a temporary tag that had expired the previous day, the document added.

As officers approached the vehicle, the affidavit said, one of them “observed an unknown object exit the passenger side window …”

During a search, one officer found a plastic bag containing 40 pieces of rock cocaine in the right rear pocket of the driver, the affidavit continued. After both the driver and Johnson were in custody, the document noted, the same officer retrieved “a large bud of marijuna lying on the ground” next to the car, and he observed “pieces of rock cocaine all over the ground, in the immediate area of the marijuana.”

Among other charges that have been filed against Johnson through the years, court records show, are Grand Theft of an automobile; additional counts of possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana; Driving While License Suspended; Careless Operation of a Vehicle; improper display of a license tag; and speeding.

In the Grand Theft case, which dates to July 2004, an officer spotted Johnson driving a vehicle that reportedly had been stolen, that probable cause affidavit explained.

She was heading the wrong way on a one-way street, in the area of 21st Street and Gregg Court, that document said. Johnson parked the vehicle and started walking away from it, the affidavit added. When the officer ordered Johnson to stop, she fled on foot, it noted. The officer was able to catch her and then arrest her, the affidavit added.

This map shows the area of 21st Street and Gregg Court. Image from Google Maps

The Jan. 1 Police Department case remains under investigation, the news release pointed out. Anyone with information related to the incident is asked to call the Sarasota Police Department Criminal Investigations Division at 941-263-6070, leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS, or going online at www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com.