JERSEY CITY, N.J. — A man who was arrested in a truck filled with guns during an attempt to rescue a teenager he thought was in drug trouble has pleaded guilty to weapons charges but says he isn’t going to let that stop him from trying to save people from succumbing to the ravages of opioid addiction.
John Cramsey, who was spurred to action last year by his daughter’s death from a drug overdose, said Monday that saving others has become his calling. The 52-year-old gun range owner from East Greenville, Pennsylvania, was arrested with two other people last year during their aborted attempt to rescue a teenager in New York. He pleaded guilty to the weapons charges on Monday.
Standing on the courthouse steps, he sounded like a man who had just begun to fight. He described the scourge of heroin and opioid addiction as worse than an epidemic.
“This is the plague,” he said. “An epidemic, you’ll find a cure for eventually. A plague kills everything in its path.”
Cramsey had channeled his grief over his daughter’s death into a mission to save others from the same fate. He started a group for concerned parents and recovering addicts and began making trips to homes and hotel rooms to pull people out of dangerous situations and find them treatment, people involved in the efforts have said.
Few might have known about Cramsey outside Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley had he, Dean Smith and Kimberly Arendt not been stopped on June 21, 2016, near the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City.
Smith, a videographer and graphic designer, was driving Cramsey’s neon-painted truck, which police said was pulled over because it had a crack in its windshield and objects hanging from a rearview mirror.
The defendants contended they were stopped because of the truck’s Second Amendment-themed decorations, and they sought unsuccessfully in court to have the search invalidated.
Arendt was a former camp counselor of 18-year-old Jenea Patterson, who reached out after a girl she was with died of a drug overdose. Patterson later denied she was seeking help, but she died in January of a drug overdose.
Cramsey said he went to her funeral. He said he keeps asking himself, “What if, what if I’d gotten to her?'”
“I would have carried her out if I’d had the chance,” he said. “If I’d had to leave my truck there and run to get that girl, I would have.”
Police recovered a semi-automatic, military-style rifle, a shotgun, five handguns and tactical gear. All three defendants faced multiple weapons charges under New Jersey’s gun laws, which are stricter than Pennsylvania’s and require guns transported in cars to be kept locked and unloaded in a trunk or secure container.
Cramsey pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a gun and possession for an unlawful purpose. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years with no parole for a year, but under the plea deal his attorney can apply for a probationary sentence that wouldn’t include prison.
Smith, of Whitehall, Pennsylvania, and Arendt, of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, were accepted into a pretrial intervention program. The probationary program, if completed, can lead to charges being dropped. Cramsey was denied entry into the program, and attorney James Lisa said he’s appealing.
Cramsey’s methods aren’t universally praised. In an interview with investigators played in court in June, Smith characterized Cramsey as “a danger to himself and others.”
Cramsey said he receives calls from people “all over the world” and will continue his mission.
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