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Profile: Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson was a participant or observer in the following events:
New York Times reporter James Sterngold goes to Kingman, Arizona, to interview people there about a former resident, convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), who now awaits execution (see June 11-13, 1997). While many in the small desert town continue to voice their suspicion of, and opposition to, the federal government as McVeigh did, they do not endorse McVeigh’s actions. McVeigh’s friend Walter “Mac” McCarty, an elderly ex-Marine who always carries a gun on his hip, recalls McVeigh attending some of his courses on handgun usage and safety (see February - July 1994). McCarty says he is angry at McVeigh for blowing up the Murrah Federal Building and killing 168 people (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). He calls the bombing senseless, but has an equal amount of anger and criticism for the FBI’s actions after the bombing, when he says agents from that bureau descended on the town and harassed its citizens. Kingman is not a haven for anti-government extremists, McCarty says. “There never was at any time a really organized militia or group like that around Kingman, and I would know,” he says. There are some people around here who think that way, I can tell you that. But it’s not organized like they say.” McCarty’s statement does not completely coincide with Kingman history. Arizona has had a number of active militias in the recent past, according to Kingman Police Chief Larry J. Butler, and some terrorist attacks, the largest being the derailment of an Amtrak train six months after McVeigh detonated his bomb (see October 9, 1995). Butler says during the mid-1990s, he would occasionally hear of hunters coming across makeshift survivalist camps in the desert. Butler remembers some “zealots” who would argue with his officers, claiming the government had no right to force them to register their cars or get drivers’ licenses, but he says those confrontations had dwindled away to almost nothing. Butler says: “To the extent there were any, Tim McVeigh killed the feelings for militias around here. I can tell you, there’s no sympathy for them.” Steve Johnson of the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department, agrees, saying: “I can’t say that they are here and I can’t say that they aren’t here. We just don’t see them.” Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center say that since McVeigh’s bombing, the number of militia groups in Arizona has dropped sharply. [New York Times, 5/10/2001]
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