Jimmy Johnson got shot dead by the good-for-nothing who was stealing from his bass boat in the parking lot of Motel 6 in Jackson, Mississippi.
Johnson had gone to check on the boat Sunday night when he was shot in the face and later pronounced dead on the scene. The 56-year-old from Ganado, Texas, was among the leaders in the B.A.S.S. Central Open standings, which include many of the sport's top pros. He was in Jackson with his wife in preparation for an Open that begins Thursday.
A security video captured a picture of a black man at the scene. Police sought and found one, name of Shaun Brown, who's 17. He was arrested Wednesday, three days after the shooting. The police say he confessed to killing Jimmy Johnson. They're holding him without bond.
I've covered enough fishing tournaments that my Facebook feed lights up when news like this happens. People don't really know what to do — "like" this? Express sympathy, or reach for the Old Testament? I never met Johnson, though the picture that emerges of him is a happy one; people who did know him, even for a moment at a tournament, had glowing things to say of him.
And most people who commented on the Bassmaster.com posts or on Facebook, that I saw, were heartfelt and sympathetic. Because it's a bullshit deal when you go to check on your boat and a guy shoots you in the face. What do you say? "I'm so sorry my thoughts and prayers to u and his family" was one. "May God rest his soul in a big lake in heaven!" "So very sorry to hear this terrible news. My heart and prayers go out to your family." Someone set up a way to make donations to the family, in increments of $10.
I'm white and from the South. Overwhelmingly, the people who fish B.A.S.S. tournaments are white and most, I expect, are from the South. When a black man is alleged to have killed a white man during a robbery, and you're reading a string of gracious comments from predominantly a white, Southern community to the family — "praying," "tragic," "praying," "This excellent fisherman will be missed," "he was truly a nice guy and a hell of a competitor" — you hold your breath and hope, please, let this stay out of the 1957 gutter.
Then: "RIP and may the SOB that did this...burn in HELL!" from someone whose avatar is Mad Max. All right. "An eye for an eye." Expecting that. "Glad they caught the thug/thief. Death penalty is too good for him." Tough one, and that word "thug" strikes me as a bit charged ... "Where's Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or the President saying this could have been his son?" That's the line, right there, being crossed. And that shit does happen. But from what I can tell, having checked the comments a couple of times this week, it stayed overwhelmingly civil.
Now, the comments on the Bassmaster page did benefit from some basic hygiene. A couple of folks spouted off some racist sludge, and others took the chance invoked the need for absolutely everyone to pack heat; either the moderators or the commenters themselves decided better of airing those in a public forum, and they're gone. Given every chance to burble up, people's ugliest instincts somehow didn't take over. The cops appear to have gotten their man, even if he's just a boy. All that remains is for people to mourn one of their own, and to try to make sense of the senseless.
One the wall of a bass pro who posted the news, one man wrote, "What a waste of 2 lives. So sorry for Jimmy's family. Pray the Lord eases their pain and provides for their needs." This seems to me a proper invocation of the power of God, and a keenly Southern acknowledgment that we needn't define ourselves by the worst features of our darkest moments. I didn't know Jimmy Johnson, but if this is how he's remembered by people who care about him, I imagine him a decent man, who surrounded himself with the same.
Coda: I haven't verified this, but I'm going to pass it along anyway on the bet that no one would post fake funeral arrangements, and in hopes that anyone so moved to make a donation will find that as simple as possible. All here as copied/pasted from a couple of comments threads.
VISITATION WILL BEGIN ON FRIDAY OCTOBER 18 AT 2 PM AT TRISKA FUNERAL HOME. THE FAMILY WILL RECEIVE FRIENDS FROM 5 PM TO 7 PM AT THE FUNERAL HOME. SERVICES WILL BE HELD ON SATURDAY OCTOBER 19 AT 10 AM AT TRISKA FUNERAL HOME. BURIAL WILL FOLLOW AT LEHER CEMENTARY IN GARWOOD. A LUNCHEON WILL BE SERVED AT KJT HALL AFTER SERVICES DONATION FOR FOOD AND DRINK WILL BE APPRECIATED. IN LIEU OF FLOWERS IN MEMORY OF JIMMY DONATION AT WOUNDED WARRIORS WEEKEND 3603 MIORI LANE VICTORIA TX 77901 (RON KOCIAN 361-572-0001) PORT O’CONNER EVENT OR C.A.S.T FOR KIDS 1529 SUNVIEW DR. DALLAS TX 75263 (ART PASLEY 972-913-2933 OR 214-704-0085) CALAVERAS EVENT/SAN ANTONIO.
Photo credit: Bassmaster