By ADAM SCHRADER, JOSEPH STEPANSKY and LARRY MCSHANE
Published in The New York Daily News on July 12, 2016
Micah Johnson never balked at the $600 asking price for an AK-47 assault rifle. The buy was arranged via Facebook, and consummated in the parking lot of a Target.
Seller Colton Crews forgot about the deal until last week, when ex-Army reservist Johnson killed five Dallas police officers — and federal investigators tracked Crews down.
“I don’t even know how I feel about it right now,” Crews told the Daily News. “I have no idea. It’s awful. It’s just bad.”
Crews, 26, said there was no inkling during their 15-minute November 2014 transaction that Johnson was anything except a military veteran and a solid citizen.
“He didn’t stand out as a nut job. He didn’t stand out as a crazy person at all,” Crews said. “He stood out as just another guy. And he was U.S. service, so he was like your first pick when you’re selling a gun to somebody.”
While the AK-47 sale shows how easy it was for Johnson to acquire a killing machine, the semiautomatic weapon wasn’t necessarily the gun Johnson used Thursday when he opened fire on police in downtown Dallas.
Crews specifically asked a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent if his old weapon played a part in the law enforcement carnage.
Alejandro Rodriguez places a candle at a public memorial outside Dallas police headquarters on Friday in memory of the police officers slain and injured in Thursday night’s attack.
“He said, ‘All we can say is it was recovered. We’re just finding out everything we can,’” Crews said. “He didn’t say it was the one he used. I hope to God it wasn’t. I hope I’m not that close to all this.”
Investigators searching Johnson’s home in Mesquite, Tex., uncovered a cache of rifles, ammunition, bombmaking materials and bulletproof vests.
Nineteen months earlier, Johnson met up with Crews in the parking lot of the Target outlet in Carrollton, Tex.
Crews, joined by his stepdad for the gun sale, recalled Johnson as little more than a war veteran interested in getting his hands back on one of the powerful weapons.
“He’s in a black SUV. (We) get out, shake his hand, introduce ourselves in person,” Crews recalled “My stepdad actually gets out, thanks him for his service, and lets us do our thing.”
Johnson told Crews about missing the rifle’s firepower since returning to the states from Afghanistan.
No red flags were raised, no second-guessing ensued. Under Texas law for a private sale, no background check is needed when the seller is not a licensed gun dealer.
“First off, it was my belief he would have passed a background check,” said Crews. “He didn’t seem weird in any way, just a normal guy.”
A short conversation ensued, mostly small talk as Johnson made sure the rifle was in working condition. Crews, who conducted a bit of an online background check on Johnson, felt like he’d made a fair deal with a good guy.
“He seems like he’s 100% on the up and up,” recounted Crews, who said his decision to sell the gun was a simple matter of economics.
“You really wanna know why?” he asked. “To afford plane tickets to go a wedding …. That’s why I sold the gun.
“The wedding was in Mexico, which is why the tickets were so expensive, which is why I needed to start downsizing my collection.”
It wasn’t until this past Friday, when Crews, playing drums with his band Monkey Sphere in San Antonio, ever heard the name Micah Johnson again.
He couldn’t remember the name at all initially. After playing Friday night’s gig, his guitar player asked, “Was his name Micah?”
“And I said, ‘That sounds like it might be it,’” recalled Crews. “And he said, ‘Micah Johnson’ — that sounds even more like it. ’Cause I don’t have a TV in my house.’”
Once the story came together, Crews found himself badly shaken. He says his interest in guns is now gone, and he opted out of a weekend deal to buy a shotgun.
“It’s the fact that I feel partially responsible for all this s— that’s happened,” he said. “That’s it. That’s what it is. … He’s just one guy who bought a gun from me, and he decided to do something completely awful.”
Adam Schrader and Joseph Stepansky reporting from Dallas.