James Burkart had a gun in his hand while he was talking to me. It took me a second to realize it.
After reading the details of the restraining order Burkart taken out against Tom Owens, I felt compelled to hear the rest of the tale. But he wasn’t answering his phone, and I couldn’t find an email address. He’s an IT guy and I find hard-to-find stuff for a living. He’s off the grid on purpose.
According to Burkart’s 2013 restraining order against Owens and his police report from Doraville, Owens had “repeatedly harassed him over the past 10 years,” from chucking the bird while jogging in front of Burkart’s home and calling him a “f—-ing fa–ot” to showing up at Burkart’s work at Home Depot to take pictures of him and his supervisor with the intent of getting him fired. The police report says Owens was literally peeping from around the corner of aisles in the store to watch him.
Ironically, I had to visit Burkart one weeknight at his home for an explanation.
When I said I was writing about Tom Owens, Burkart came to the door and stood a bit awkwardly in his front doorway to talk. He kept his right hand just out of view behind the frame. He asked some questions, intensely, about who I was and who I might be with. I offered my business card. A female friend came out to take it so he wouldn’t have to move.
Burkart said that he had given up his guns before he met Owens, but he’d had to get some more since. In a later conversation, he confirmed that he had a pistol in his hand, finger out of the trigger well, just in case I turned out to be some nutty confidant of Owens’ looking for a way to get at him.
“Tom’s not right,” Burkart said. “Tom’s a nut. He said that I tried to kill him, that I was trying to hack his computer with my database at work … I had to hire a lawyer, and get a personal protection order. It cost me about three grand.”
I asked Burkart how this began.
“He was in the store where I work and tried to befriend me, and then it was like … odd comments,” he said. “Let’s go to the shooting range, let’s go to the Falcons game, let’s go to a Braves game. It’s like, you know what? I don’t really like the n–ger speech. I don’t like that other speech. … That was the red flag. The n–ger speech, and like n–ger motherfu–er, and the f-g-ass. You know what? I’m busy. You’re busy. Thanks. Good bye.”
Burkart’s description of a flip from beckoning to hostility matches a pattern in other accounts of Owens in public record.