Local/State

Durham man has ties to Navy Yard shooting victim

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington has hit another local family hard.

A Durham man, Reid Churchill, said the oldest victim in that rampage was his brother-in-law.

Churchill said 73-year old John Johnson never knew a stranger. He told ABC11 that the last time they spoke was about a week or two ago, and he never imagined that would be the last time he would hear his voice.

"A senseless act from one individual could have such far reaching affect, more than we would ever consider," said Churchill.

Churchill said when he watches the news he feels shielded -- having no tangible connection to what he sees. However, that changed when he and the rest of the country watched the coverage unfold of a shooting at a Navy Yard.

"I knew my brother-in-law worked as a contractor for the Navy at the shipyard," said Churchill.

Johnson was a civilian contractor at the shipyard.  He was married to Churchill's older sister for almost a decade, and was the father of four girls from a previous marriage.

Johnson's widow, Judy, said he loved to work and left each morning at 3:45 a.m. to miss the Washington D.C. traffic.

"He always said, 'Goodbye beautiful, I love you so much. You have a good day and God bless you,'" said Judy.

"He never met a stranger," said Churchill. "[He was] a big Washington Redskins fan. He loved to fish. [He] loved to give firm handshakes and big bear hugs."

As the hours ticked on with no word from John, hope turned to despair. At 10 p.m. Monday, they got the news that they would never feel that firm handshake or one of those big bear hugs again.

"For me the tough thing today that I've been trying to deal with is how to answer questions there are no answers for," said Churchill.

Churchill said having a tragedy like this hit so close to home gives him a new understanding of tragedy, but at the same time, a loss of innocence.

Churchill said he will travel to Maryland as soon as he knows more about funeral arrangements.

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north carolina news, durham county news, local/state, angelica alvarez
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