Parolee fatally shot Trying to Avoid Checkpoint

TUCKER, Ark. (AP) - A man wanted for failing to report to his parole officer has been fatally shot by a prison guard as the man tried to flee from a contraband checkpoint at a prison unit in Jefferson County. That's according to Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the state Corrections Department.

Tyler said the shooting occurred shortly after noon today. She said the checkpoint, using drug-sniffing dogs, had been set up by guards in an attempt to cut down on contraband being smuggled into the prison. She identified the man killed as 49-year-old Lester H. McGowan of Heber Springs.

She said he was returning to the prison to pick up his brother's girlfriend, who was visiting McGowan's wife in the prison. According to Tyler, McGowan had dropped the woman off during the morning, before the checkpoint was set up, and wouldn't have been expecting to encounter it.

Tyler said McGowan was killed by a single shot fired by a guard whom Tyler declined to identify, quote, "for security reasons," unquote. She said the guard who fired the shot has been put on leave with pay pending an investigation by state police.

According to Tyler, the shooting occurred after McGowan had been identified as a parole absconder and asked to get out of his car. She said he refused to do so, put his car in reverse and spun it around in an effort to flee the area.

Tyler said his car hit the vehicle of an assistant warden who was arriving at the prison, and continued to slew around wildly as guards scattered to get out of the way, though his car got "very close to the officers" before he was shot.

Tyler said McGowan had been paroled Feb. 9 from a 10-year sentence imposed in 2005 in Pulaski County for robbery and two counts of forgery.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)