Slain security guard remembered as ‘teddy bear’
Associated Press Writer
TEMPLE HILLS, Md. – As an elderly white supremacist approached the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, security guard Stephen T. Johns unknowingly held open the door – a final act that friends and family said Thursday was typical of his kindness for others.
Authorities say before the 88-year-old man even got into the building Wednesday, he pointed his gun at Johns’ heart and pulled the trigger.
Well-wishers came to Johns’ boyhood home Thursday on a quiet, tree-lined street in Temple Hills to remember the man who spent the past six years working at the Washington museum until he was gunned down.
“If Steve saw an old lady struggling with groceries, he’d go help her,” said Kevin Martin, who first met Johns at Crossland High School in Maryland.
“He was just a genuinely good guy,” said another friend, Carlton Spriggs, who met Johns when they were in their early 20s and training to become plumbers. “I can’t think of anything bad to say about him.”
Johns, 39, was a fan of the Washington Redskins, they recalled, and once enjoyed listening to the hip-hop group NWA.
James von Brunn, who has a violent and anti-Semitic past, was charged with first-degree murder in Johns’ death.
Meanwhile, the museum remained closed and flags flew at half-staff in honor of the guard credited with helping save several lives in the crowded museum. Bouquets of roses, lilies and other flowers were left outside the museum walls.
Johns’ mother, Jacqueline Carter, who lives at the Temple Hills home, described her 6-foot-6 son as a “my teddy bear.” She said her only child was thoughtful and remembered special dates like anniversaries and birthdays.
“He was kind, he was gentle, he was loving,” she said. “He loved people and he loved his job.”
Carter said Johns had an 11-year-old son, Stephen Johns, Jr., and recently celebrated his first wedding anniversary with his second wife. Carter says President Barack Obama called Johns’ wife Thursday to express his condolences.
“I wish this could just be a dream,” she said of her son’s death. “I wish it wasn’t real.”
Martin says he believes God put Johns at the museum to stop more harm.
“He had a death wish when he went in there,” Martin said of the gunman. “I think God put Steve in that position to stop him from doing what he wanted to do.”