LEPANTO/MARKED TREE, AR (KAIT) – Officials in Poinsett County are investigating the shooting of a Marked Tree police officer's home late Thursday night. According to police, someone fired three rounds into an officer's home around 8 o'clock Thursday. No one was injured in the incident. Authorities in Lepanto told Region 8 News Friday they're not surprised to hear criminals retaliating against law enforcement.
"It didn't catch me by surprise because I feel like the heat has been on for the last three or four years and I've really been expecting some type of retaliation at some point," said Mayor Kevan Wright of Lepanto. "It's just something to expect from these people when the pressure is on."
"I wasn't really expecting it but it didn't surprise me a bit. Once you step on the wrong toes, if they're big enough toes, something like that is going to happen," said Raymond Oakes, Interim Police Chief of Lepanto. "They're getting pushed, getting shown that it's not going to be allowed and so they're going to retaliate."
Authorities are looking into the possibility that the shooting was in retaliation for a series of drug busts in recent weeks.
"I think it has to be your bigger, your larger dealers who would really go to that extreme. A lot of people we deal with would probably not ever fathom doing anything like that," said Wright. "I think if you're starting to put the pressure on a larger dealer, someone who you're really effecting their livelihood, their money stream, then I think you're getting into something where they could retaliate in that way."
Wright said drug activity has decreased in the last several years in the city of Lepanto. He credited changes in state laws, a drug dog and public perception of the police department for the decline.
"We've had a lot of them who have left town, a lot of them who have gone to jail, they're on probation now. A lot of them have just quit altogether," said Wright. "A lot of credit is given to our officers who have done an exceptional job. The Poinsett County Sheriff's Department has been good. We've brought in a drug dog, Roca, 3 years ago and I think she has added a lot to this."
Wright said Lepanto still has lots of marijuana and methamphetamine users in the city.
"I think it shows with the way that they call. They're more eager to call the police and say I saw this, I saw that taking place because if they don't have confidence in the police if they're going to do something, they'll just say, well they're not going to do it anyway. They don't make the phone call. I think from the citizen participation that we've seen in them calling the police and letting us know what's going on, I think that's been a big plus in what we've been able to do," said Wright.
"If the public don't think it's any good to ask for help, then they're not going to ask for it. You've got to build up that confidence with your public," said Oakes. "I'd say maybe five six years ago the public would say, it don't do any good to call so why call, but you just have to work and show the public."
Oakes said Lepanto Police have made three busts in the last month.
On February 23, police arrested Danny Walker and Ashile Wilson of Lepanto. Police say they found a meth lab at 113 Woodland Street. Walker and Wilson were charged with manufacture of a controlled substance methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture and possession of a communications device.
On February 21, police arrested Christopher Leija on a charge of manufacturing and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture. Oakes said police found a one pot meth lab inside a tackle box on the west branch of the Little River. Two other people are wanted for the crime.
Earlier in February, Oakes said police arrested David Sims and Kimberly Sims after a probation search discovered drugs. Kimberly was charged with possession of a controlled substance methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to deliver. David was charged with the same, plus conspiracy intent to manufacture and theft by receiving.
Oakes said all three arrests were made in a ten day span, proving law enforcement's dedication to stopping illegal drug activity.
"We are trained to be a law enforcement officer 24 hours a day seven days a week because of stuff like that," said Oakes.