Criminal Justice Advocate Sheldon Johnson Arrested After Headless Torso Found in His Apartment: Cops

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A Harlem man who became an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform and rehabilitation after being freed from prison last year was charged with murder on Thursday, according to New York police.

Sheldon Johnson Jr., 48, was also charged with manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon after police found a headless torso and arms in his Bronx apartment while conducting a wellness check.

“I’m innocent!” Johnson yelled to reporters as he was led out of a stationhouse, according to the New York Daily News.

The remains were identified as that of Colin Small, 44. Police said Small was pronounced dead at the scene. His relationship to Johnson was not immediately clear, but law enforcement sources told the New York Post that the two may have had “a beef” dating back to their time together in Westchester County’s notorious Sing Sing prison.

Police said that neighbors in Johnson’s building had heard at least two gunshots coming from inside a sixth-floor apartment early Tuesday, followed by a man shouting, “Please don’t—I have a family.” Another two gunshots followed, they said.

Later on Tuesday morning, the neighbors informed the building’s superintendent later, who called 911. Police who arrived at the apartment that night were met by Johnson, who they took into custody soon after. They obtained a search warrant, and discovered Small’s torso and foot inside a large blue bin. The other foot, as well as his arms, legs, and decapitated head, were found inside the apartment’s freezer, sources told the Daily News.

In 1999, Johnson was convicted of attempted murder, robbery and other charges in a New York court. He was released from an upstate prison last May after spending 25 years behind bars, according to records obtained by The New York Times. He was subsequently hired to work as a counselor for at-risk youth with the Queens Defenders.

A spokesperson for the Queens Defenders declined to comment to The Daily Beast.

Johnson also appeared on a February episode of The Joe Rogan Experience to discuss his advocacy work and how he’d turned his life around while incarcerated. He claimed that he’d gone into prison as a high-ranking member of the Bloods, but began to untangle himself from his gang ties around 2005.

“I really said: I have to change my life. I have to change my life. I just can’t do this,” he explained. “I had a wife, I had kids, I had family still, my son was growing up. He was hearing stories of my so-called notoriety. I just didn’t want to be that dad.”

Civil rights attorney Josh Dubin, appearing alongside Johnson on the podcast, called him “a miracle.”

A representative for Rogan did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday night.