I remember Johnnie as a long time friend when ask for help, he responded. After a break-in leaving my home defenseless, he made it secure. I remember his talking of his family as they served our country and his youngest as if he would always be dad. I remember him as not seeing skin color, but something deeper, he could see your moral values. I remember sitting with him, listening to his retold jokes, laughing again and again at the same jokes just because he enjoyed the retelling so much. I remember seeing him pick up other people's trash. I remember him being asked for a handout, taking money out of his pocket, giving money away. I told him agencies were for help, his reply; it is needed now. He knew it might be used for something besides food. Yes, he enjoyed playing and traveling was his passion. He believed in working to make that possible. He took pride in his city and police department, calling the police who worked the area his friends. Yes he will be missed. He lived religion.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
What Happened To Johnnie Conner And Why?
It's been five days since a mailman making his daily rounds found 73-year-old eastside businessman, Johnnie Conner, lying dead inside the corner business he ran for decades at 3125 East New York Street. Police remained mum about the cause of his death initially, but we now know he died from a single gunshot to the head despite some reports that he died from multiple gunshot wounds. Police suggested robbery as a motive. Neighbors fear something worse. An obituary in the newspaper observing the passing of the owner of Johnnie's Glass & Frames, known by friends as "Mr. Johnnie", says he was born in Montgomery, Alabama on January 14, 1935. A day of news coverage and he just becomes homicide victim #114 for the year.
Conner, a veteran, moved up to Indianapolis from Florida back in the 1960s according to a friend and raised his family here. He built a successful glass shop at the location in Englewood over a three decade period, providing an important anchor to this eastside neighborhood ravaged by a recent wave of crime and an ever-growing number of abandoned homes, which invite more criminal activity. Only blocks away on the same street, a 30-year-old woman's body was discovered in an abandoned home two months ago. Conner also owned a number of nearby rental properties, which he maintained well, and he lived across the street from his business. He cared about the quality of life in his neighborhood and could care less about the color of your skin according to a friend. Cognizant of the criminal element nearby, he always wore a handgun. And he wasn't afraid to reach out to help others in the neighborhood. One neighbor described the Johnnie she knew on the Indianapolis Star's Talkback site:
Yes, he considered the police who worked the area his friends according to neighbors. And at least one neighbor believes he may have even been a helpful informant for police. Crack houses and prostitution have been a persistent problem in the area. Some neighbors complain that their efforts to weed out the criminal element in the area have been less than welcomed by some IMPD officers patrolling the area. These same neighbors are skeptical Conner's death is simply an armed robbery gone bad. While police have released little information to the public, according to one source, Conner's body was found with the money he was carrying and other untouched valuables within his business; however, a box which Conner used for petty cash was missing. The source speculates that the killer may have taken the money box to make it appear to be a robbery instead of a hit job to punish a snitch. The source believes the killer knew Conner would be armed and quickly eliminated the threat with a single, precise shot.
Conner's senseless killing has left this neighborhood in a state of shock. Their guardian angel is gone. Last year, older, middle class neighborhoods like this one switched their allegiance from Mayor Bart Peterson to Greg Ballard in hopes a new administration would successfully combat the twin evils besetting them--crime and abandoned homes. A year later, their hopes have been dashed. Conner's death is just another reminder of what they had already concluded. In perhaps a moment of candor or a slip of the tongue, one city official had this blunt response to neighborhood complaints: "Why don't they just move if they don't like the neighborhood?" Some are moving. Not a few blocks away. Not another part of town. But across the county line. Conner's death, they fear, is a turning point for the worse instead of a cause for change. If nobody cares why Johnnie died . . .