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Slain Holocaust Museum Security Guard Remembered as Kind, Caring

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In the living room of their Temple Hills home, the parents and son of the slain Holocaust Museum security guard Stephen Johns talk about their loss. Video by Hamil Harris/The Washington Post

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Recently, Johns and his wife, Zakia, bought a house minutes away from his mother and stepfather in Temple Hills. The neighborhood is also near the home of Johns's ex-wife, Eliza Williams, and their 11-year-old son, Stephen Jr.

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Zakia Johns remained in seclusion yesterday and declined to comment for this story. Since Johns moved back to Temple Hills, he and his son had been spending much more time together, something both father and son were happy about, Lennon said.

Yesterday, Stephen Jr. sat with his grandmother, Jacqueline Carter, on the couch in her white Colonial-style Temple Hills home.

"To me, he was a pretty great guy, and he was always there for me," Stephen Jr. said. "When I had heard about what happened, I was just . . . sad. Mad at the guy that shot him."

Carter struggled with her emotions as she talked about the loss of her only son. "People can say that I know how you feel, and I do appreciate that and all," she said. "But right this second, I just miss my son, knowing that I am not going to see him again."

Carter said her son had once considered training to become a police officer but was dissuaded by his first wife. Instead, he stuck to his career as a security guard. He had worked at the Holocaust Museum for six years. Before that, he had worked at the Whole Foods grocery in Logan Circle.

Johns was attached to his job, Harmon said. "It was the best thing that ever happened to him," he said. "We'd do things, and he'd say: 'I can't stay out too late. I've got work in the morning.' "

Yesterday, about 200 people gathered at the Holocaust Museum for a vigil to remember Johns, and colleagues remembered his bright personality and knack for turning the foyer of the museum into an occasional stage for his comedy.

"He was just a delightful colleague, a wonderful individual, a great professional and a very dedicated security officer," said Sara Bloomfield, the museum's director. "But I would say, above all, what a personality. . . . He just had one of those personalities that you couldn't avoid."

When Johns decided to be licensed as a "special police officer," which permitted him to carry a handgun on duty, his friends laughed at him, Harmon said. He was too sweet a person for people to imagine him getting into an altercation. "We said, 'You don't need a gun, man,' " Harmon said.

Johns explained it to Harmon this way: "It's not really about the gun. I want to step up careers a little bit."

Harmon rushed to the hospital when he learned that his friend had been shot.

"I totally thought it was a joke," Harmon said, who arrived before Johns's mother and couldn't bear to break the news. When Stephen Jr. arrived, "I just grabbed him and held on," Harmon said.

Staff writer Avis Thomas-Lester and staff researchers Meg Smith and Julie Tate contributed to this report.


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