RECTOR, AR (KAIT) - A Clay County man died Wednesday afternoon in an apparent officer-involved shooting that Arkansas State Police are now investigating.
According to a media release on the department’s website, Gary Warbritton of Rector was involved in the armed conflict with local police on Main Street and Highway 49 in Rector.
The statement described the scene that officers saw Wednesday afternoon.
“At 3:47 p.m., the Rector Police Department was notified of a man walking along Main Street brandishing a firearm. As police arrived in the area, the suspect, now identified as Warbritton, reportedly pointed the gun at a police officer who fired his gun at Warbritton,” the statement from ASP said. “Warbritton fled the area and led police to the convenience store where officers reportedly attempted to persuade him to drop the firearm. Warbritton, again, pointed his gun at police, prompting one officer to fire his gun. Warbritton was pronounced dead at the scene. Police were not injured.”
On Thursday, Region 8 News returned to Rector to talk with residents about the issue. Several residents said they were worried about safety in the area.
The family and friends of Warbritton said they were hurt and spoke out, questioning the use of deadly force.
“They could have shot him in the arm, they could have reached out and grabbed the gun. They could have maimed him, but who cares let him be maimed the rest of his life, but now, he’s dead,” Corey Hobbs, a friend of Warbritton, said.
Family and friends of Warbritton gathered in front of the Piggott courthouse Friday night, saying they were there to protest how police handled the deadly shooting earlier this week.
“The cop that killed my little brother, they could have done something else other than taking his life.” said family member Amanda Beaver.
People, both for and against how officers handled Wednesday’s shooting, showed up Friday, speaking out for what they believe is right.
“With the chances that were given, I don’t think there’s a reason for people to be upset that the officer took it to where it was at.” said Clay County resident Kari Keller.
Arkansas State Police special agents with the Criminal Investigation Division are investigating the use of deadly force by police in the case, ASP said.
Once the investigation is done, an investigative file will be prepared and given to Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington. Ellington will determine whether or not the use of deadly force was consistent with state law, ASP said in the statement.
Also, on Thursday, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office released the 911 recordings from the officer-involved shooting through an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request by Region 8 News.
There were several calls made to county 911 dispatch and Rector police 911 about the situation.
One of the callers said they saw the man walking down the street with the gun waving the gun in the air, while another caller said they heard five gunshots go off in the area.
Warbritton will be sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab in Little Rock for an autopsy to determine the cause of death and for investigators to collect forensic evidence in the case, ASP said.
In the statement, ASP also said any questions about the identity of the officers or the administrative status should be directed to Rector police.
On Friday, Rector Police Chief Glenn Leach also released the names of his officers involved in the case. They include full-time officer Allen Haywood and part-time officer Michael Turner.