Search Of Ark. Gunman's House Yields Clues

This undated photo shows a man identified by the police as Timothy Dale Johnson. Johnson barged into the Arkansas Democratic headquarters Wednesday and fatally shot the state party chairman before speeding off in his pickup. Police later shot and killed the suspect after a 30-mile chase.
AP PHOTO
The man who fatally shot the chairman of the state Democratic Party after he lost his job had a Post-it note at home with the victim's last name and phone number along with 14 guns, antidepressants and a last will and testament, according to court documents.

Police said Thursday they know of no relationship between gunman Timothy Dale Johnson, 50, and Bill Gwatney, 48, a car dealer and former state senator who served as the state's Democratic Party chairman.

Johnson shot Gwatney to death Wednesday and was killed by officers after a 30-minute chase.

The search of Johnson's home near Searcy, northeast of Little Rock, turned up two sets of keys for vehicles from Gwatney car lots. Johnson also had a pistol and 13 long guns.

Police Lt. Terry Hastings said officers didn't know what to make of the note and police didn't disclose the phone number or say whether it was to the party headquarters or a car dealership.

"Right now we don't have any indication of motive as far as it deals with Mr. Gwatney," Hastings said. Little Rock police were going through a computer that was seized from Johnson's home, Hastings said.

Wreathes and flowers lined the sidewalk in front of Arkansas' Democratic Party headquarters Thursday. The day before, Johnson - after losing his job at a Target store in Conway - drove more than 30 miles and fatally shot Gwatney.

Johnson had been a good employee in a Target stockroom until Wednesday morning, a Target spokeswoman said.

Target fired Johnson before 8 a.m. Wednesday because he had written on a wall and a manager had called police because of an "extremely irate" employee, said Conway police spokeswoman Sharen Carter. The graffiti, including "Target is run by dumb jocks and sorority b------," had already been cleaned and Johnson had left by the time officers arrived.

"This was different behavior for him," spokeswoman Brie Heath said Thursday. "The manager asked him if he needed to talk. At that point he turned in his badge and left the building."

After leaving the store, Johnson drove to Little Rock and barged into Gwatney's office and shot him multiple times.

"He said he was interested in volunteering, but that was obviously a lie," said Sam Higginbotham, a 17-year-old volunteer at the party's headquarters.

After the shooting, Johnson sped away in a truck, stopped seven blocks away at the Arkansas State Baptist Convention and pointed a gun at the building's manager, police said. When asked what was wrong, the gunman said "I lost my job," according to Dan Jordan, the church group's business manager.

Officers chased the suspect to Sheridan, 30 miles south of Little Rock. After avoiding spike strips and a roadblock, the suspect emerged from his truck and began shooting at deputies and state troopers, who returned fire. Johnson later died at a hospital. Police found two guns in the truck.

Conway police called Johnson's departure a termination but Heath said the man left of his own accord. "When he left yesterday, he voluntarily left. We asked him `What's going on? Do you want to talk about something? It was `Let's talk.' It was not about termination," Heath said.

Johnson lived along a one-lane gravel road in a one-story ranch-style house of brown brick. Multicolored Christmas lights still hung around Johnson's carport door. In the garden, a six-foot sunflower was wilted, pointing toward the ground.

Because of Gwatney's position in the state party, he was a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention this month in Denver. He declared his support for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton after the Arkansas primary in February but endorsed Barack Obama after Clinton dropped out of the presidential race.

Democratic and Republican party officials said their offices would remain closed until Monday.

Johnson lived alone and had never been married, said Helen Mowrer, who lives next door. Johnson's parents had lived at the house, but they died in the past 10 years, she said.

"I never felt really comfortable with him," Mowrer said. "He was just kind of different."

Another neighbor, Loretta Jones, said investigators visited her home Wednesday but said her only contact with Johnson had been the three or four times she complained to him about his dog.

"It makes you wonder what got into somebody to do something so horrible," Jones said.

The state Capitol was locked down for about an hour until police got word the shooter had been captured, Arkansas State Capitol police Sgt. Charlie Brice said.