Neighbors, artist cope with arrest of accused vandal
NORMAN — Robin Hood Lane residents expressed disbelief Friday at the arrest of a neighbor accused by police of spray-painting racist graffiti in Norman and Oklahoma City over the past two weeks, while the artist behind a defaced sculpture tried to come to terms with the vandalism.
Allison Christine Johnson, 45, was arrested Thursday afternoon by Norman police on a complaint of making "terroristic threats," officials said. She was booked into Cleveland County jail, where she remained Friday.
"I'm surprised, I can't believe that she would do something like that," said a neighbor of Johnson's who requested anonymity.
The neighbor said "Allison has had a tough last few years."
On Wednesday morning, Norman police were notified of graffiti, including swastikas and racial slurs, found at the offices of the Cleveland County Democratic Party Headquarters, Norman’s Firehouse Art Center and McKinley Elementary School.
On March 28, similar graffiti was found in Oklahoma City on properties that housed the offices of the Oklahoma Democratic Party and the Chickasaw Nation. Both Oklahoma City and Norman police have said they believe the same person was behind the incidents. Norman police officials said Johnson is the only suspect in connection with the graffiti.
Johnson went to a Norman police station Thursday afternoon and surrendered to police, officials said. No other information about Johnson’s arrest, including what she told police, was released.
A knock on the door of the Johnson family home went unanswered Friday. Four cars were parked in the driveway, including one that closely resembled the car seen in a video released by police.
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The graffiti in Norman and Oklahoma City included homophobic statements. At offices in Oklahoma City there was also a letter attached to the door promoting President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election and criticizing the Democratic party.
Johnson, who had once been registered as a Democrat, filled out an application in June to change her party affiliation to Republican. It went into effect on Sept. 1.
Her neighbor Sarah Keen, a 20-year-old University of Oklahoma student, was surprised to learn the suspect lived close by.
"This is a good neighborhood. It's something that seems really out of place here, " said Keen, whose niece attends McKinley. "You'd think that we were beyond that type of thinking. I don't know why she would go out of her way to go do all that stuff. It's just ridiculous."
Sculpture still covered
Norman artist Richard McKown sculpted the large female head that was defaced with swastikas and slurs outside the art center at 444 S Flood.
"It's starting to sink in. I'm really frustrated," he told The Oklahoman on Friday. "I like making things and I really resent someone unmaking or trying to destroy something that somebody put this much time and love and care into. It's just atrocious."
McKown, 49, spent Friday experimenting with ways to remove the spray paint from the sculpture, which is made out of plaster and must be cleaned delicately. He said he would begin the restoration process next weekend and hopefully "have her put back together" by April 14.
"That sculpture's been rained on for 11 years and is slowly eroding," he said. "It looks like concrete, but it's not concrete. If we took a power washer to it we'd start blowing holes in it."
The model for the 11-year-old sculpture was McKown's then-7-year-old daughter. Olivia McKown, now 18, is studying acting at a California college. She was home on spring break when the sculpture was vandalized, her father said.
"In a certain sense you have to look at this and say, 'OK, there's an opportunity for some dialogue here,'" he said. "We're in this horrible time when everybody feels empowered to say the most horrible things and it’s really destructive and it really doesn’t matter if you're liberal or conservative. I see people misbehaving in ways that are heartbreaking."
McKown covered the sculpture with a tarp as soon as police were done investigating Wednesday morning.
"Our first priority is we have to get this covered so people don’t look at this," he said. "People don’t need to see this. We don’t need to give this villain the ability to use this piece of art to spread these hateful ideas."
Staff writer Josh Wallace contributed to this report.