Corey Johnson, a Florida teenager allegedly fascinated with ISIS, Adolf Hitler, and white supremacy, is accused of cutting the throat of a 13-year-old boy during a rampage at a sleepover. Authorities say that Johnson was motivated by his Muslim religious beliefs.
He’s accused of murdering 13-year-old Jovanni Brand (whose name is also given as Jovanni Sierra) and stabbing two other people at the slumber party multiple times. Interim Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Clint Shannon alleged during a news conference describing the bizarre sequence of events: “Our understanding is he had converted to Islam and had been watching violent videos online.” He had been on the FBI and Jupiter police radar screen since at least 2017 and was allegedly about to be arrested for a threat to a foreign school.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Corey Johnson Is Accused of Stabbing One Victim More Than 30 Times ‘Because of His Religious Beliefs’
The interim police chief said the incident occurred on Monday, March 12, 2018 at 5:56 p.m. The initial responding officers immediately entered the home and “contained the suspect” who had “barricaded himself in a bedroom,” according to the chief.
Johnson, 17, was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree attempted murder. On that Monday morning, while sleeping as a guest at the home of Elaine Simon, he allegedly “violently attacked Ms. Simon and two juveniles that were in the home with a knife… This was not a random act of violence,” the chief said.
In the home at the time of the attack were Simon, Corey Johnson, 17; Kyle Bancroft, 15; Dane Bancroft, 13; and Jovanni Brand, 13. Brand and Johnson were overnight guests at the home on March 11. Simon said she awoke to a commotion in the home’s upstairs and was met at the stairs by Johnson, who allegedly stabbed her multiple times.
Dane ran toward Johnson to protect his mother, the chief said. Johnson allegedly began to stab Dane, and the two escaped to a neighbor’s. Authorities found Jovanni Brand with multiple stab wounds and a throat laceration, and he was dead at the scene. Kyle was unharmed. Simon was stabbed 12 times, and Dane was stabbed 32 times.
Johnson allegedly told authorities that he “stabbed the victims because of his religious beliefs.” He had been a student at Dwyer High School but was recently withdrawn. He was a Jupiter resident.
Karen Abreu, the mother of Jovanni, says on Facebook that she is a “Receptionist/Client Assistant at Intelligent Office Palm Beach Gardens.” She is from Pereira, Risaralda, which is located in Colombia.
2. Corey Johnson Allegedly Had a Swastika as His Profile Picture on Facebook & Read the Koran Before the Murder
Before he allegedly committed the murder, Johnson “read the Koran ‘to give him courage,'” Fox News reported.
Corey Johnson had a very disturbing Facebook presence, according to the Jupiter Police report.
His Facebook profile “showed his most recent profile picture to be that of a Nazi Swastika,” the report said. As a result, contact was made with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Tas force and a meeting was set up for January 12, 2017 at the high school.
He was known to authorities for about a year at least. According to WPBF reporter Ari Hait, who shared a police report on Twitter involving the earlier investigation of Johnson, the “Palm Beach Gardens stabbing suspect was being monitored for extreme views…Corey Johnson was about to be arrested for a terrorist threat to a foreign school.”
The older boy and suspect were friends for many years, according to the chief. Johnson is alleged to have told police he woke up with an “urge” to kill and “Johnson advised he stabbed the victims because of his Muslim faith,” Fox reported.
He’s accused of being upset because Jovanni called celebrities “gods” because that offended his Muslim religion, and he also told investigators that Dane mocked his Islamic faith, Fox reports.
3. Johnson Is Accused of Supporting ISIS, the Oklahoma City Bombers & Being a White Supremacist
On January 11, 2017, a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s detective contacted the Criminal Investigations Division of the Jupiter Police Department regarding Johnson, who was a Dwyer High School student at the time and a Town of Jupiter resident.
Noel advised that he had received information that Johnson “has terrorist ideologies and is a supporter of the terrorist organization ISIS.” He was alleged to have “viewed several videos of ISIS online including beheading videos, has stated he wants to join the organization and has also reached out to ISIS via the internet.”
In December 2016, contact was also made with School Board officers who advised they had received information that Johnson allegedly “has violent tendencies, supports the Oklahoma City bombings, has spoken about inappropriate places to bomb, likes extremists, Fascists, Hitler and is a White Supremacist.” He was alleged to have access to a gun, “possibly a long gun, which may be locked in a safe at his residence.”
The police chief for Palm Beach Gardens, which was not involved in the earlier investigation, said it didn’t appear there were any conversations with any person in the house to trigger the stabbings. “We understand he has been watching violent videos which may have some link to ISIS,” the chief said.
4. Jovanni Brand Invited the Alleged Killer to Have Pizza Shortly Before He Was Murdered
Jovanni Brand was remembered as a youth with a big heart, which was how he crossed paths with Johnson. Karen Abreu took her son, Jovanni, to play paintball and then out to dinner at an Italian restaurant, according to The Palm Beach Post. He saw Johnson there and asked his mother if he could have a sleepover, the newspaper reported.
“My son was an amazing soul,” she said to the newspaper. “He had the biggest personality wherever he went. He brightened up a room. He always told jokes and made people laugh. We always told him he should be a comedian.”
5. Johnson, Whose Father Is Dead, Was About to Be Arrested for Terrorist Threats of a British School
Johnson resided with his mother and her boyfriend. The father is deceased, the chief said. He added that Johnson is alleged to have used his own knife in the stabbings.
Authorities used tear gas to get the suspect to surrender. However, authorities say they were poised to arrest him before the murder for another offense. In January 2017, “police and the FBI investigated several threats that the then Dwyer High School student made on Instagram to a Catholic school in England. Those threats were so severe in nature that up to 100 students were removed from the school fearing some sort of attack,” WPTV reported.
Police learned from his mother and grandparents during that investigation that Johnson was fascinated by dictators including Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Kim Jung Un, according to the television station. In March, he told the FBI he did not have “any affiliation with ISIS, but did state he was supportive of known terrorist Anwar al Awlaki.”
The Palm Beach Post reported that local Islamic organization said they did not know Johnson.