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Gwatney’s killer



Gwatney's killer

Our Arkansas Blog ( provided continuously updated coverage of the developing story last week about the shooting of Democratic Party Chair Bill Gwatney and background on the killer, Timothy Dale Johnson, 50, of Searcy, a stocker in a Conway Target store. At press time, police were still silent about the contents of a personal computer and other paperwork that might offer clues to Johnson's motivation.

Some details absent in many press accounts, but reported on the Arkansas Blog: Johnson, who had a prescription for Effexor, an anti-depressant, owned at least 16 weapons, mostly long guns and including a couple of semi-automatic military M-1s. He participated in high-powered rifle competitions with a Cleburne County gun club, but was said to be a mediocre shot. He stopped attending gun club events after he couldn't persuade other club members to start a competition in which shooters in cowboy garb shoot at Wild West-style targets. A female employee of a Searcy dentist once complained to Searcy police about unwanted overtures from Johnson, including a “disturbing” letter. An ASU-Beebe classmate told of Johnson's reported dislike for Democrats. Most of his primary votes, but not all, since 2000 were in Republican primaries, including the February presidential primary. Finally, one of Johnson's last stops before shooting Gwatney was a visit to his Cabot hair stylist, where he stopped to inquire about the progress of his haircutter's pregnancy. He then drove on to Little Rock.

It all adds up to … who knows?


Pearly whites

A recent report on The Arkansas Project, a new conservative-oriented blog, quotes an unidentified friend as saying former Gov. Mike Huckabee received some cosmetic dental work in advance of his new career as a TV commentator. We'd heard the same rumor, but got no response when we asked the Huckabees about it. The report went viral, appearing on websites ranging from the Free Republic to Politico. The “pal” quoted by the Arkansas Project said that “hair plugs might be a good next step” for The Huckster.


Racino jackpot

The trend continues upward for gambling on the slot machine-style gambling at the Southland and Oaklawn racinos since the legislature approved so-called electronic games of skill. Gamblers are pumping millions of coins into video poker, blackjack, keno and slot-style “lock and load” games.

In July, gamblers bet a bit more than $18 million at Oaklawn. The payout was about 94.4 percent, with the track holding back a little more than $1 million (about 35 percent of that goes to state and local government and live racing purses; the track keeps the rest).

At Southland, gamblers wagered $36.3 million and the track kept about 4.8 percent, or $1.7 million, before taxes.

If you're counting, this means gamblers lost a total of $2.7 million on gambling machines in Arkansas in July. The tracks kept about $1.7 million of that for themselves. Now you know why the tracks paid lobbyists so handsomely to pass the “games of skill” legislation. The take is triple that reported in the first month of electronic gambling in November 2006.


Downtown development

Walgreens is trying again to win approval of a retail store at 17th and Main Streets. A previous effort to win approval of a store where the legendary Box hamburger joint stands failed amid neighborhood criticism of the design. Neighborhood groups in the historic neighborhood wanted a store more oriented to the street. The developers put parking in the back and the store close to the curb, but the design approval process hung up on neighbors' desire for big windows in front. A new proposal was approved recently by the Capitol Zoning District Commission's design review committee, but was dependent on some design changes that the developers don't like. The plan will get further Commission review in September.


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