How about this hero: Leo Johnson

Published 10:35 pm Saturday, September 28, 2013

Chances are you’ve read more than enough about Aaron Alexis and the Washington Navy Yard shootings. But how about Leo Johnson, the guy who stopped a terrorist threat in the same city? Ever heard of him?

Among his co-workers at the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative-leaning think tank in downtown D.C., Johnson is known as “Leo the Hero.” That’s because the 47-year-old building manager thwarted plans of their would-be attacker – even after a bullet shattered his left forearm.

Little more than a year ago a man named Floyd Corkins entered the lobby of the FRC with a plan to kill “as many people as possible,” according to his signed plea agreement. He was carrying a loaded semi-automatic pistol and nearly 100 rounds of extra ammunition, and oh, yes, 15 carry-out items from Chick-fil-A.

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It seems that Corkins was so angry with the anti-gay-marriage positions of the FRC and the fast-food chain that he planned to smother the faces of his victims with sandwiches. But he wasn’t counting on a Leo Johnson standing in his way.

Johnson says he knew something was amiss the morning of Aug. 15, 2012, when Corkins set his backpack down on the floor facing the lobby desk. Coming around to check things out, Johnson saw the visitor was drawing a weapon.

A security video captured a blow-by-blow (literally) account of the ensuing fight. Johnson, though unarmed, charged the perpetrator. Three shots were fired. The second bullet tore through Johnson’s arm, then, in spite of his wound, Johnson managed to use that same limb to pin Corkins against a wall. Eventually he was able to take the gun and secure Corkins on the floor until police arrived.

Afterward Johnson described his focus during the ordeal: “I was thinking, ‘I have to get this gun – this guy’s gonna kill me and kill everybody here.” The “everybody here” included secretaries, interns, legal assistants, lawyers – 80 staff members in all, each a possible target.

The FBI later extolled Johnson’s actions as “the only thing that prevented Corkins from carrying out a mass shooting. Our entire community is thankful to the hero who stood up to this heinous attack.”

I’d say Johnson, whose main concern after two surgeries is the effect it’s had on his mother and grandmother for whom he serves as caretaker, is true-blue brave. Little has been made of his story though, and that’s because some in the media don’t care much for conservative organizations such as the one Johnson sought to protect.

Last Thursday Johnson and the shooter came face to face for the first time since the 2012 incident. Johnson read a statement before the court expressing forgiveness to Corkins, who received a 25-year prison sentence on three felony charges, including terrorism.

When I spoke with Darin Miller of the FRC, he said that in spite of security changes made in recent months at their headquarters, things today are pretty much “business as usual.”

He referred me to comments made by FRC President Tony Perkins after the judge’s sentence was announced: “Today the courts sent a very clear message. Political discourse is just that – it’s discourse. And if we’re going to change policy in the country is has to be done through civil debate, not through armed acts of terrorism … We hold no animosity towards Mr. Corkins. We simply wanted to see justice done and a message sent that this type of behavior in America is not appropriate and will not be tolerated.”

Especially by the likes of Leo the Hero.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at