DorobekInsider: Remembering Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns

Thursday - 6/11/2009, 8:28am EDT

Wednesday was a difficult day — darkened, of course, by the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum just blocks from the National Mall here in Washington, DC. It was a shooting that resulted in the death of a Holocaust Museum guard, Stephen Tyrone Johns of Temple Hills, MD.

People may often think of journalists as cold and uncaring. Well, truth be told, reporters and journalists are people and that means many of them are unique, but… in my experience, they are particularly sensitive. In many cases, that is why they got into the profession. But during events like yesterday’s shooting, we have a job to do — get information to people that allows them to make decisions — about whether it is safe out there, about whether it was possible to get home.

But I — much like most of you — also went through a variety of emotions yesterday… shock… anger that we need to have guards in these kinds of facilities at all…

But after all of that, for me, it is time to think. Perhaps it is my way of maintaining a positive outlook.

Stephen Johns

Stephen Johns

And I keep thinking of Stephen Tyrone Johns. On Wednesday on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke to WTOP reporter Mark Segraves, and he made the point that so often, we encounter these guards and see it as a hassle. And in many ways, it can be similar to the way that many people view many of the jobs done by government workers.

From what we’ve been able to find out, Johns worked for Wackenhut Services Inc., based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., that has contracted security services at the museum since 2002, according to a company statement as reported by WTOP radio.

From what I’ve been able to find out, Johns was a fed. Yes, the museum is a public-private partnership, the museum is a “federal government institution.” Therefore, most of the positions are federally funded — they are feds.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter if he was a federal employee or a contractor or whatever. Johns today gave his life in the line of duty. We will lean more as the days continue about what happened, but by all accounts, Johns was doing his job. He was guarding.

Very often — sometimes too often — particularly in large organizations like government agencies, one can feel detached from the mission of the organization. For Johns, the mission was very clear — and he did it today.

But we at Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief also asked ourselves the question: Is this a Federal News Radio story? Our mission is to provide information that helps people in the government market do their jobs better. In the strictest sense, no, the coverage of a shooting at a museum does not help you do your job better. But I think our coverage can be justified because it was the story that people were talking about yesterday… and today, for that matter. So to not cover it felt… well, odd.

I was really touched by the messages that feds posted — on Facebook and on Twitter. Johns was doing his job. And he made the ultimate sacrifice.

Our lives can get so busy and crowded, but… this sure seems like a good opportunity to take a step back and remember Officer Johns and his family and the staff at the Museum. And to be connected to the mission of our organization.

WTOP report Mark Segraves told us today that Johns even held the door open for the shooter — helping what he thought was an elderly man. Hear our conversation with Segraves here.

We also hear that the Wackenhut is going to create a memorial fund for those who want to donate. WTOP reporter Michelle Bash joined us on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris this afternoon with an update on Johns. Hear that conversation here. Wackenhut has not posted information yet, but I’ll post to it once they do…

Regardless, our thoughts are with Johns family and the museum staff.

God speed Officer Johns.