Johnston County man working to improve his life says he let down friends, family after arrest

Johnston County News

BENSON, N.C. (WNCN) – A security guard arrested by Benson police over the weekend said he is sorry for letting his friends and family down.

Billy Strickland, 54, is charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of marijuana, and possession of a blue light by non-law enforcement.

“So many church people prayed for me and gave me an opportunity to prove myself. I feel like I let them down,” Strickland said. He said the entire case is a misunderstanding.

Just after 4 p.m. Saturday, a Benson police officer spotted Strickland driving a black pickup with a gold security badge on the driver’s side door near Barnes Lube Express on North Wall Street. Strickland said he volunteers as a security guard there.

According to the police report, the officer recognized Strickland because of a warrant out for his arrest for larceny.

At the time, Strickland had on a security guard uniform with a holster around his waist. When the officer asked if it had a firearm in it, Strickland told the officer no, but admitted there was a pink .22 caliber pistol in the console.

After searching the car, officers found a small baggie of marijuana and blue LED lights, similar to the those used on police cars. Strickland told officers he thought the lights were green when he ordered them, and that he uses them for work.

“I didn’t even know the marijuana was in my vehicle. My truck was full of stuff and when the officer came back to the car with the bag I said, ‘What is that?’ I didn’t even know what it was until he got up to the truck and he said it was marijuana,” Strickland said.

Strickland said he was holding the gun for a young man, but he also thought his record was expunged in 2005. He said he doesn’t use a firearm for his security job.

Strickland was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 1994. After getting out of prison, Strickland said he wanted to make a change.

“I said I just wanted to do better, be a better person. I vowed to do better,” he said.

Strickland said he began volunteering and dedicated his life to working at his church. He said getting arrested again is not something he is proud of.

“To be on the front page, and to bring up my past which I served time for. You know I could have been doing anything in this world. I’ve been running from my life for the last 13 years. I am not in the streets. I’m not in the club, anything like that,” Strickland said.

Strickland said the larceny charge is also a misunderstanding. He said he may have accidentally walked away from a store with medication.

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