MOUNT STERLING, Ky. (LEX 18) — Days after an LEX 18 investigation led to the suspension of a military weapons program at the Mount Sterling Police Department, another development. The Office of the Kentucky Attorney General is now looking into how the weapons were handled.
In an email to us Wednesday, a deputy communications director wrote, "Our Office of Special Prosecutions has received an official request from Commonwealth's Attorney Ronnie Goldy, Jr. to appoint a special prosecutor in the investigation of Mt. Sterling police officer Jason Perry. We have assumed jurisdiction, and we are looking into this matter."
A Montgomery County man named Michael Johnson told Kentucky State Police Perry owed him money for an ATV and gave him a rare upper receiver from an M-16 rifle to settle a debt. Johnson claims he didn't know it was a police-issued gun part until he says Perry asked for it back. "I received a text message that they were doing inventory, and he needed it back for his inventory, and once that was over, he would get it straight back to me," said Johnson.
Johnson showed us a text message he claims Perry sent him. It reads, "I need ur upper back for little bit. There doing inventory Monday. I'll get it back to you [sic] ." According to a Kentucky State Police investigation report, a detective documented seeing that text on Johnson's phone.
The state coordinator of the LESO program, which stands for Law Enforcement Support Office, said Tuesday he suspended the department from the program for 90 days for violating LESO's state plan of operations.
LESO is a military program that loans weapons and equipment to local, state, and federal law enforcement for police use only. Under the agreement, there is an annual inventory of equipment. According to the Defense Logistics Agency's website, misuse or mismanagement of equipment can lead to restrictions, suspensions, or termination of the program.
Sgt. Perry disputes Johnson's claims in a detailed KSP report. The detective wrote that in an interview, Perry told him he did give Johnson an upper receiver but said it didn't have anything to do with the money he owed Johnson for the ATV. The report documents that Perry told the detective he let Johnson know the upper receiver belonged to the department. They couldn't "get rid of them or sale them [sic]." Further, in the report, he stated he told Johnson the department had to keep them for inventory purposes. According to the investigation report, Perry called Johnson's allegations a "civil" matter. Both had agreed they were even on the ATV after Perry told the detective he did work for Johnson.
LEX 18 has tried repeatedly to contact Sgt. Perry to ask him directly about Johnson's allegations and allow him to tell his side of the story in his own words. Perry has not contacted us. We obtained information from Perry's personnel file at the police department through an open records request to the City of Mount Sterling. A department memo stated Sgt. Perry was awarded the Officers Medal for going "beyond the normal call of duty" and saving the life of a person in 2012 who threatened to commit suicide. His files also included dozens of police training certificates. A police memo dated 9/28/2020 showed Sgt. Perry is the supervisor over the Mount Sterling Police Department Armory and Firearm Instruction. Another memo stated Perry was promoted from Patrol Officer to Sergeant on November 15, 2019.