Tuesday, September 13, 2011
According to Van Buren Police a lone shooter entered the Crawford County Courthouse in Van Buren, Arkansas, around 4:00 pm. Police say the suspect then shot a secretary who witnesses have identified as Vicki Jones.
The shooter was shot and injured by Van Buren Police. Both have been transported to the hospital for their injuries. A Van Buren police officer was also injured by flying glass as police exchanged gunfire with the shooter. Van Buren Police are currently not releasing the name of the suspect.
Lt. Brent Grill with the Van Buren Police Department said police were called to a disturbance at the courthouse, and one person was possibly shot inside. A gun battle involving the suspect, VBPD and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department then ensued outside the courthouse, Grill said.
Sebastian County deputies are at a local hospital guarding the suspect, who is undergoing surgery, Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said.
Elaine Stanfield, administrative assistant to County Judge John Hall, said she first heard the shots at 3:30 p.m.
“I heard girls screaming upstairs; this all started upstairs,” said Stanfield, whose office is on the first floor of the courthouse. “I pushed the panic button — everyone has panic button under their desk that goes to sheriff’s office — and I picked up the phone and dialed 911.”
The suspect shot off multiple rounds while moving, Grill said, striking a nearby Van Buren police cruiser. Veteran Van Buren police officer Dave Passen received minor injuries from glass, Grill said.
Stanfield says she saw the suspect, a “heavyset man between 35-40 years of age” who was wearing a long duster style coat. Stanfield was still on the phone with 911 and heard a dispatcher say “our guys are being fired at,” then heard the shooting stop.
“This has changed our lives,” Stanfield said.
Fort Smith police Capt. Jarrard Copeland said a call about the shooting came through dispatch at 3:44 p.m.; 20 to 30 officers from Fort Smith were dispatched to the scene.
Hollenbeck said security at courthouses in Fort Smith and Greenwood has been increased as a precautionary measure until law enforcement officials can confirm no one else is involved in the courthouse shooting in Crawford County.
County Judge John Hall says the courthouse will be closed Wednesday but will try to open Thursday morning.
“We’re probably looking at getting security guards,” Hall said. “We have six entrances at the courthouse. Yes, there is going to be a change in security. The days to free access to the oldest courthouse west of the Mississippi is over.”
Crawford County is a county located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. It is part of the Fort Smith, Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 61,948. The county seat is Van Buren. Crawford County was formed on October 18, 1820, and named for William H. Crawford who was United States Secretary of War in 1815.
Thousands of self-claimed "Western Band of Cherokee" (or Arkansas Cherokees) fought for state and federal recognition as a political entity of Native Americans. Crawford County was historically part of the Cherokee Nation, which lost its tribal sovereignty status as a result of the U.S. Civil war in the 1860s. The Cherokee Nation was subsequently relocated to the west in the present-day state of Oklahoma.
The area was settled by David Boyd and Thomas Martin in the year 1818. After Arkansas became a territory in 1819 Daniel and Thomas Phillips constructed a lumber yard in the community to serve as a fuel depot for river traffic. In the year 1831 a post office was constructed for the community, at the time known as Phillips Landing. This post office was named after the newly appointed Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren. The city of Van Buren is a result of that legacy.