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No motive found in Gwatney slaying

Little Rock police have closed their investigation into the Aug. 13 fatal shooting of Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney without reaching a conclusion as to motive.

Timothy Dale Johnson, 50, of Searcy shot Gwatney, 48, at the party’s headquarters and led authorities on a high-speed chase into Grant County before being shot and killed by police. Investigators were unable to establish a connection between the two men, Little Rock police Lt. Terry Hastings said today.

“There’s no conclusion,” Hastings said. “We still don’t have a reason why he killed him.”

A note bearing the name “Gwatney” and a phone number that police found in Johnson’s home yielded no clues to a motive, Hastings said. The phone number was an old number, now disconnected, for the service department of one of the auto dealerships Gwatney owned, he said.

“It’s an old note. It doesn’t tie to anything,” Hastings said.

An examination of the contents of Johnson’s computer also turned up “nothing that was of value to indicate a motive,” Hastings said.

Arkansas State Police have also concluded their investigation into the pursuit and fatal shooting of Johnson, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said today. The Grant County prosecuting attorney concluded that the use of deadly force against Johnson was justified, Sadler said.

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The party’s party

Arkansans are probably pretty tired today after an official delegation party that lasted well into the night Tuesday.

The party was billed as a tribute to the late Bill Gwatney, who would have been 49 Tuesday. Music was provided by a group that plays at the White Water Tavern in Little Rock. Gwatney chose the musicians before his death Aug. 13, Arkansas Democratic Party officials said.

Former President Bill Clinton did not attend, though he was expected. Among the high profile guests were Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, according to state Rep. Steve Harrelson who is blogging at the convention.

Kaine was on the short list of vice presidential contenders.

Incoming state House Speaker Robbie Wills of Conway billed the event as a “real Who’s Who of Arkansas Democratic politics.” Wills is helping Harrelson, D-Texarkana, on his Web log, Under the Dome, this week.

Harrelson was designated by the Democratic Party as the “official” Arkansas blogger of the convention. He has a prime seat with the Arkansas delegation at the Pepsi Center.

The late-night party was at The Tavern, a nightclub in the trendy LoDo section of Denver. The club’s Web site boasts that its rooftop deck was named one of the “Top 10 Best Rooftops in America” by Playboy magazine.

The deck was indeed impressive. It offered great views of Coors Field, the baseball stadium located right across the street. On Tuesday night, visitors could see mountain vistas to the west illuminated by frequent lightning flashes in the distance.

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Clinton speech mentions Gwatney

Hillary Clinton paid tribute to Bill Gwatney in her Democratic National Convention speech.

Clinton called Gwatney “one of our finest young leaders” and that Gwatney “believed with all his heart that America and the South could be and should be Democratic from top to bottom.”

Gwatney’s widow, Rebecca, is watching the speech with former President Bill Clinton in a private box at the convention hall.

Rebecca Gwatney was elected by the state’s Democrats to fill her late husband’s spot at the convention.

Hillary Clinton praised Rebecca Gwatney for traveling to Denver so shortly after Bill Gwatney’s Aug. 13 death.

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Gwatney tribute

Bill Gwatney was honored at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday as part of a memorial tribute to prominent Democratic officials and political journalists who have died since the 2004 convention.

Gwatney’s photograph was displayed on video screens in the Pepsi Center during the five-minute tribute to about 50 people who have died. He was recognized alongside First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, Texas Gov. Ann Richards and broadcasters Peter Jennings and Tim Russert, among others.

Lights were dimmed in the convention hall and soft instrumental music played for the tribute. Convention-goers applauded when Gwatney’s image appeared on the video screen.

Before the “In Memoriam” segment honoring Gwatney and others, members of the Congressional Black Caucus eulogized the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio.

Tubbs Jones, 58, died from a brain hemorrhage on Aug. 20.

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Gwatney’s birthday

Today would have been Bill Gwatney’s 49th birthday.

Arkansas delegates were expected to celebrate with him at the state’s official party tonight. Instead, they will honor his memory and his work on behalf of the state’s Democrats.

“It is a very difficult time,” said Don Beavers, the state’s Democratic national committeeman. “I think virtually everything we do out here, Bill is in our hearts and minds as we do it.”

Gwatney had a part in selecting the music for tonight’s party, said Darinda Sharp, communications director for the state’s Democrats. The event has been designated as a tribute to the late state chairman, who was shot and killed on Aug. 13.

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No time to remember Gwatney?

Arkansas Democratic Party officials still have no word about whether there will be some sort of recognition of the late Bill Gwatney during the national convention.

Gwatney, the party’s state chairman, was slain in Democratic headquarters in Little Rock on Aug. 13.

Without knowing what, if anything, convention leaders will do to remember him, Arkansas delegates are wearing special lapel pins commemorating Gwatney. They are the “official” pins of the delegation. His wife, Rebecca, serves in his place as a superdelegate to the convention.

And in the “say it ain’t so” department, two Arkansans said the delegation was discouraged from mentioning Gwatney at Sunday’s reception/party with two other delegations — Hawaii and Delaware — at the hotel the three groups share. Hawaii and Delaware delegations did not want to “dampen the mood,” said one observer who attended.

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