Coast Guard searches for missing guardsman at Ponce Inlet station

Guardsman vanished after going for run, officials say


PONCE INLET, Fla. – The Coast Guard is searching for a guardsman they say vanished after going for a run Wednesday morning with his unit.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Johnnie Walton, 37, who joined the Coast Guard in July 2001, was on duty at Coast Guard Station Ponce De Leon Inlet in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, when he disappeared while exercising off base, according to Coast Guard officials. Walton was jogging at the Smyrna Dunes Park and was last seen on the boardwalk.

Walton did not return to the base for his official duties with the rest of his unit, so concerned crew members called police. According to the incident report filed with the New Smyrna Beach Police Department, two crew members told officers "his unit had searched the grounds for Mr. Walton. However, they had not been able to find him."

Walton left his wallet and cellphone at the base and officers said it is unknown if he has access to a vehicle.

The concerned crew members also told detectives, "Mr. Walton has been having some family issues and suffers from alcoholism."

No one was home at Walton's Edgewater house Wednesday night but people in the neighborhood saw police at the home earlier in the day.

"A couple officers showed up. There was one that stood down there by the road and another one walked the lady in the house. I guess she grabbed some clothes, and some stuff and then they took off. Since I've been here, nobody's been to the house," said Shane Dragone, who was at the home next door.

A Coast Guard spokeswoman confirmed they are aware of Walton being involved in an investigation with the Edgewater Police Department but did not know what the investigation entailed.

"Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our members," said Cmdr. Brian Rush, Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville response department head, in a release. "We are fully cooperating with local law enforcement in the search for Petty Officer Walton."

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office, New Smyrna Beach Police Department and Edgewater Police Department are helping in the search.

Anyone with any information on Walton's whereabouts it asked to call the Coast Guard at 305-415-6800 or local law enforcement at 386-424-2000.