Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Wild West Drive-By Shooting

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Wild West Drive-By Shooting

Article excerpt

Gunshots fired into office of newspaper in Truth or Consequences, N.M.

An incident reminiscent of the Old West has transfixed the small community of Truth or Consequences, N.M. since shots were fired into the office of the local Desert Journal this fall and police charged a local physician and his purported bodyguard with the assault on the weekly newspaper.

"Thank God nobody was in the building," says editor and publisher Bill Johnson, who was summoned from his home by police after the nighttime shooting he suspects was a revenge action. One bullet, according to Johnson, pierced a support beam a few inches from his chair.

Dr. Jesus M. Gonzalez, 49, who had been Johnson's personal physician, and Michael McGroarty, 30, described as the doctor's bodyguard and gardener, are charged with conspiracy, shooting at a dwelling, and shooting from a motor vehicle, all felonies.

Johnson says he believes that either Gonzalez or McGroarty fired the shots. He attributes the attack to Gonzalez's rage over a Journal story last September about his arrest on a drunk-driving charge.

Gonzalez denies the shooting charges. The Journal reports, however, that McGroarty told police that a station wagon he was driving had Gonzalez as a passenger when they rode by the newspaper's office the night of the shooting and that the physician was "messing" with something under his seat.

Quoting the police further, the Journal story says McGroarty allegedly told police: "I did not see him point a gun at the house. I didn't see him do it." Both men had been at two local bars earlier that evening, McGroarty says. Under more questioning, McGroarty called the shooting an accident, police say.

Johnson says the district attorney has a witness who saw the drive-by shooting. "There's no doubt in my mind that the bullets were intended to intimidate me and my staff" he adds. "We Were shaken up over it."

Johnson recalls that Gonzalez came to his office in an angry mood about the Page One piece that reported his drank driving arrest and offered him money to retrieve all the copies of that day's paper.

"I declined the offer, telling him that I would consider that a violation of the First Amendment," Johnson remembers. …

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