A Sebastian County sheriff's deputy has died, while a west Arkansas town's police chief was injured Wednesday when a man opened fire on officers. A police dog was also struck by gunfire.
Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck says Deputy Bill Cooper was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead at 1:15 p.m. He said Cooper had been a deputy since 2001. The other law enforcement officer, Hackett Police Chief Darrell Spells, had "superficial wounds."
Hollenbeck says the gunman, 34-year-old Billy Monroe Jones, said he wanted to cause a "ruckus" ahead of a court appearance. Earlier in the day Jones pointed a rifle at this father, Hollenbeck says, who then called 911.
The sheriff says responding officers found Jones with a rifle and body armor.
Hollenbeck said Cooper was around age 65 and expected to retire soon.
Jones is also said to have shot and disabled a police robot that was being used to confirm Jones was inside the home where he was holding officers at bay.
Hollenbeck said the police dog was shot during the gunfire and ran from the scene as its handler and other officers scrambled for cover. The dog apparently ran into a heavily wooded area nearby and had not been found as of Wednesday afternoon.
The sheriff said Jones was due in a Fort Smith courtroom Wednesday for a hearing on whether a previous suspended sentence should be revoked. Court records show he has had a drug conviction along with a handful of minor charges.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Arkansas Gov Asa Hutchinson said:
I am deeply saddened by the news that Sebastian County Sheriffs Deputy Bill Cooper has passed away after being shot in the line of duty this morning. Today’s shooting incident, which also resulted in injuries to Hackett Chief of Police Darrell Spells, tragically illustrates the dangers our law enforcement officers face each and every day to keep us safe.
On behalf of all Arkansans, I want to extend our heartfelt condolences to Deputy Cooper’s loved ones and our entire law enforcement community. We stand with you during this difficult time.