Suspect in Nev. jail death tells police: ‘I tried to kill him, you got a problem with that?’

The suspect told police he was tired of being disrespected after he cleaned the cell and his cellmate clogged the toilet


By Brett Clarkson
Las Vegas Review-Journal

CLARK COUNTY, Nev. — A jail inmate accused of killing his cellmate at the Clark County Detention Center told police he had no remorse over the slaying and had wanted his cellmate to die after he claimed the cellmate disrespected him, police said.

Lee Johnson, 30, was arrested and rebooked into the jail on suspicion of murder after fellow inmate James Chatien was found dead in their cell on Tuesday afternoon, a Metropolitan Police Department arrest report stated.

Lee Johnson, 30, was arrested and rebooked into the jail on suspicion of murder after fellow inmate James Chatien was found dead in their cell.
Lee Johnson, 30, was arrested and rebooked into the jail on suspicion of murder after fellow inmate James Chatien was found dead in their cell. (Photo/LVMPD)

According to the arrest report, released Thursday, a corrections officer did a visual inspection of Johnson and Chatien inside their cell just after 1:30 p.m.

Chatien, police noted in the report, had “several documented behavioral incidents of misuse of his call light,” a reference to the call light used by inmates to alert corrections officers that they need assistance.

At 1:47 p.m., that call light was activated. Officers deactivated it at 1:49 p.m., the arrest report said. The light was then turned on again at 1:53 p.m.

At 2:04 p.m., while a corrections officer was doing his routine inspections, according to the report, he saw Johnson, who was standing at the cell door.

Johnson told the corrections officer he was going to “end up like this b—— a—-,” an apparent reference to Chatien.

The comment alarmed the corrections officer, who couldn’t see Chatien, but called for other officers to help. Johnson was taken out of his cell.

The officers went into the cell. Chatien was unresponsive on the floor with blood pooling around his head.

He was taken from the jail, which is at 330 Casino Center Blvd. in downtown Las Vegas, to University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Police interviewed Johnson later that night. Johnson, according to police, was “highly agitated and rocking back forth in his chair” throughout the interview.

When asked who his cellmate was, Johnson said, “I don’t know, and I don’t give a f—-.”

“Lee explained that the incident happened because his roommate was running his mouth after cleaning the cell,” the arrest report stated, describing the police interview of Johnson.

“He said after he cleaned, his roommate clogged the toilet. He said he got his roommate extra food. He said he was tired of being disrespected, so, ‘I tried to kill him, you got a problem with that?’ ”

Johnson said he hadn’t used any weapons — only his fists.

Johnson had been in jail since an arrest on Oct. 7. In that case, he was accused of kicking police officers who were arresting him after he tried to cross at a crosswalk while the red hand signal was up at South Maryland Parkway and Desert Inn Road.

He faces two misdemeanor counts of battery on a protected person in connection with that incident.

Court records show that Johnson also has amassed 11 other cases in the Las Vegas Justice Court since 2010. The charges range from burglary, grand larceny and drug possession to various forms of battery including battery by a prisoner and domestic battery.

In the battery by a prisoner case, Johnson was accused of punching a fellow inmate while both were in custody at the Clark County Detention Center in 2017.

Court records also show that a James Chatien was arrested on multiple counts of indecent exposure in 2021.

In a hearing Wednesday afternoon, Johnson was held without bail in the slaying of Chatien. His arraignment was set for Monday.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com or 561-324-6421. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter.

©2022 Las Vegas Review-Journal. Visit reviewjournal.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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