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A Walgreens employee in Colorado has been arrested and charged with the murder of his 17-year-old colleague who had previously rejected his advances and complained of making her feel uncomfortable.
Joshua Johnson, 28, was arrested June 12 by state troopers about 100 miles from Colorado Springs on June 12, a day after Riley Whitelaw’s body was found in the Walgreens rest room where they worked both. Johnson has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, police said.
On June 11, a Walgreens official in Colorado Springs found Whitelaw’s body in the break room after the high school student never returned from her break, according to the arrest affidavit obtained by KKTV.
Officers responded to the scene around 6:55 p.m. where they discovered Whitelaw lying in a significant amount of blood with trauma to the neck area. Officers observed no signs of life and the staff break room had blood on the floor, cabinets and counter, the affidavit states.
Justin Zunino, the manager, told police Johnson was warned a year ago to keep his conduct professional after Whitelaw complained that he had made advances to her, which made her feel bad. ‘easy. Zunino said Johnson appeared to be receptive to the warning, according to the affidavit.
However, several weeks ago Whitelaw requested a change in his shifts to avoid Johnson. Zunino told investigators the teenager later asked for overtime and was told overtime would mean she and Johnson would cross paths.
Johnson’s interest in Whitelaw didn’t seem to be deterred when her boyfriend joined the Walgreens staff three months ago. Crystal Ishmael, another store manager, told police that Johnson instead started “acting jealously.”
On the day of Whitelaw’s death, a customer at the Walgreens store heard a woman screaming and the sound of stalls banging, she later told authorities. Zunino, the manager, told officers he saw Johnson on store surveillance video stacking bins in front of the camera to block his view.
Ishmael told police that while searching for Whitelaw, she checked outside near a dumpster where she smelled a “strong smell of bleach” and attempted to enter, but walked away after hearing a male voice say he was changing.
Johnson later told police he was the person Ishmael spoke to near the dumpster and was trying to leave. He also admitted to being in the break room and told authorities he had fallen on the blood, according to the affidavit.
Johnson was found by Colorado State Patrol troopers walking along the highway. He had scratches on his hands and face and claimed he was attacked at Walgreens. He was arrested shortly after soldiers learned he was a suspect in the incident, KKTV reported.
Johnson admitted to police that he previously had a “crush” on Whitelaw, but claimed that was no longer the case as he was now involved with Ishmael. Police noted that Ishmael did not mention being in a relationship with Johnson during his interview. Despite video evidence, Johnson denied attempting to obstruct surveillance cameras.
Whitelaw, a straight student at Air Academy High School, was an art enthusiast with a passion for genetic research, according to her friends and family. He was someone filled with empathy, patience and compassion who “enabled others to be seen, heard or recognized,” his obituary said. She was “wise beyond her years” and would be equally at home in a room full of adults having conversations or chilling out with her friends making goofy videos.
“If you were having a bad day, she had the innate ability to cheer you up. She was dedicated, persistent and passionate about everything she strove to try,” the obituary said.
The teenager’s funeral will take place next week as the investigation into her murder continues.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Walgreens senior manager Fraser Engerman said the company was “saddened” by the incident.
“The safety of our customers and our team members is the top priority, and we are working with local authorities in their investigation,” Engerman said. “We’re making tips and other resources available to our store team members here,” he added.
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