UPDATE: Elementary school custodian shot twice in East Ridge rob - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Elementary school custodian shot twice in East Ridge robbery attempt

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EAST RIDGE, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Students and staff at Normal Park Lower School spent the day Tuesday making cards for East Ridge shooting victim Verdis Johnson, better known as Mr. J.

"We just told the students that Mr. J had been injured, and that he was in the hospital," said Asst. Principal Carrie Willmore.

From the kindergarten to third grade classrooms, students say Johnson is a familiar face to everyone at the Normal Park Lower School.

"Our kids and our staff really love Mr. J and really appreciate everything he does for our school," Willmore said, "They just wanted to help."

To help put a smile on his face, hundreds of students started making get well soon cards for Mr . J.
    
He's been a custodian here for the last 15 years, and employed by the school district for 34.

Shortly after Monday's shooting, a Normal Park parent created this Go Fund Me page to help pay for Mr. J's medical bills.

The page raised about $3,000 within the first 30 minutes and one day later, funds have almost reached the $10,000 goal.

The Go Fund Me page says Johnson has six children and 21 grand children, that's in addition to his family at Normal Park.

"He's a part of our family, and it's as simple as that," Willmore said.

The cards will be taken to Mr. J in the hospital.

The school's staff says he's recovering from surgery but he's still in a lot of pain.
    
East Ridge Police still don't know who fired the shots. They only tell us they are continuing to investigate.


PREVIOUS STORY:  The victim has been identified as Verdis Johnson, 60, the Head Custodian at Normal Park Lower School.

Johnson was shot twice outside his East Ridge apartment Monday morning in what police say was an attempted robbery.

East Ridge Police Department Captain Tim Mullinax says Johnson was shot shortly before 6 a.m. as he was walking out to his truck to go to work. 

HOW TO HELP | Johnson family GoFundMe page

"By the time I heard the door shut I heard a "pow, pow, pow," and the next thing I know I was laying in the parking lot down there and I thought he was dead," said his wife Geneitha Johnson.

Johnson told police an armed and masked black male approached him from behind. The suspect began shooting, wounding Johnson in the hand and lower abdomen. The suspect ran off empty handed.

Johnson was able to go back inside his home and tell his wife to call police.

"I was trying to get to the door and he was bamming on the door saying "I just got shot, I just got shot," Geneitha Johnson said.

Geneitha will now spend her birthday Tuesday by her husband's bedside at Erlanger Hospital.

"We just got through yesterday celebrating my birthday, my kids were here and everything, we had dinner and everything and everything was good," she said.

Verdis Johnson was on his way to work at Normal Park Lower School. He's the head custodian, where students and teachers know him as "Mr. J."

"I got that call at about 6:45 because the building wasn't opened and he's the one who opens it," said Principal Jill Levine.

Mr. J didn't unlock the school doors Monday morning, or turn on the lights or greet incoming students, like he's done for more than 15 years.
    
He's worked with the Hamilton County School District for the last 34 years.

Police say there is no further suspect description available, anyone with information is asked to call East Ridge Police at (423) 622 -1725, or the Confidential Tipline at (423) 867-0016.

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