Arsons, Vandalism Continue to Plague Town with No Police Chief

HOLLY GROVE, AR - Suspected arsons and other acts of vandalism targeting Holly Grove Town Hall, police cars and two businesses owned by the mayor have left leaders and residents of the small Monroe County town worried for their safety.

Since April, firefighters have been called to battle a dozen or so fires, including blazes at a daycare, an abandoned home, the former headquarters of the local police and fire departments and an agriculture building on the high school campus.

Mayor Lula Tyler says the situation is "like a nightmare."

Tyler fired one police chief amid the string of suspected arsons and a second quit after vandals hit the town last weekend.  Monroe County deputies and state troopers are patrolling the community of 639 until a replacement chief is hired.

Governor Beebe says his office is monitoring the situation.  But Beebe says the state would intervene only if various agencies suggest it.

Most recently, the Bank of Holly Grove and the Town & Country Discount Store had windows either shot out or smashed by bricks.  Eight bullets pierced Town Hall, shattering windows, including a glass door along an inside foyer.

Holly Grove Fire Chief Dwayne Lammers says the town suffered through about 60 fires in 1998, when gangs were blamed for the arsons.  The town's elementary school burned down in December in a fire attributed to poor electrical wiring.  Classes resumed in January in Holly Grove's old high school, shuttered as part of a state consolidation in 2003.

Lammers declined to speculate on a motive for the current string of fires, saying they were still under investigation.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)