For an Arkansas sheriff, the death of a veteran deputy and the near death of a police chief after they responded to a call on Wednesday drove home a message he hoped would crystallize in the public consciousness.
Yes, law officers make bad mistakes and at times behave badly with deadly consequences, Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said. But cops put their lives on the line every day, and do so for their communities.
“Another perfect example of how local law enforcement comes to work every day; they leave their family to serve and protect,” Hollenbeck said two hours after Deputy Bill Cooper died in surgery and after Hackett Police Chief Darrell Spells was injured. “Thousands of times a day we do it right, but over the last several years it appears we focus on those incidents where we mess up.”
Cooper, 65 and on the verge of retirement, Spells and other officers showed up around 7:10 a.m. at the manufactured home on a large rural lot off Arkansas Highway 253, after a 911 call that a man and his adult son were fighting over tools, and the son had pulled a gun.
When the deputies and officers arrived, they quickly reported that the son had an assault-style rifle and body armor and that they were met by rifle fire, Hollenbeck said. He identified the gunman as 35-year-old Billy Monroe Jones.
“Officers were able to take cover and at that time Mr. Jones started firing,” the sheriff said.
Officials said Jones barricaded himself in the home and shot at dozens of responding officers, pinning them down along with neighbors and family members who wandered into the field of fire.
About 7:40 a.m., both Cooper and Spells were shot, Hollenbeck said. Law officers, under fire, rescued Cooper and Spells and also civilians who had taken cover, the sheriff said.
“We were able to conduct several rescues of individuals or citizens who were trapped in the line of fire.” he said
Spells was treated and released; a bullet grazed his head. Cooper, a 20-year law-enforcement veteran and an ex-Marine, died of a neck wound, Hollenbeck said
Jones also shot a robot and a police dog before surrendering about 11:45 a.m. The dog was still missing Wednesday afternnon, the sheriff said.
“The dog was shot and during the fog of the gunfight, the handler was diving for cover and obviously his dog was doing the same,” Hollenbeck said. “It is a wooded environment and we are still actively searching for the canine.”
Hollenbeck said the motivation for the shooting was unclear. Jones had a hearing scheduled for Wednesday at a court in nearby Fort Smith to have a previous suspended sentence reviewed and possibly revoked, Hollenbeck said.
CNN-affiliate KFSM reported that Jones lived in nearby Greenwood, and had previous convictions including:
• 2007: manufacture and possession of a controlled substance, schedule IV, V; sentenced to 60 months, suspended sentence.
• 2011: theft of property; sentenced to 60 months, suspended sentence.
• February 2016, possession of firearms by certain persons, possession of a controlled substance, scheduled I and II.
Jones surrendered Wednesday by waving a white towel out the window, walked out of the home with his hands up, and laid down on the ground to be handcuffed, KFSM reported. A bomb squad was also called to Jones’ home because investigators heard Jones had a license to work with explosives, KFSM reported.
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