JONESBORO — As construction continues on a shooting sports complex, some events could be held as early as this summer, Police Chief Rick Elliott said Monday.
In addition to crime fighting, Elliott is recruiting private donations to fund the construction.
The project began in 2015 as an effort to move the police department’s shooting range out of Craighead Forest Park and away from nearby homes to a more secluded area that could also be made available to civilians.
The city then joined forces with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which had been searching for a place to develop a regional shooting complex.
“I’m hoping by mid-summer, the plumbing and electricity will be done,” Elliott said.
Ramson’s Inc. is nearing completion of $2.55 million of construction, which includes restrooms, installation of shot curtains and other work for trap shooting.
The rifle range is ready to use, but water and electric service hasn’t been activated to the restrooms, Elliott said.
Another phase of work, construction of a classroom building, is expected to begin this month.
The city council’s public works committee is scheduled to review a proposed $1,298,000 contract with Olympus Construction for that project, which is expected to take 11 months to complete
Construction got its jump-start after the game and fish commission secured a $2 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Now that the construction has reached this point, Elliott said more grant sources are becoming available, and more private businesses are interested in purchasing naming rights for some of the facilities.
Every potential investor he’s taken to the site has made a commitment after seeing scope of the project, he said.
“It’s awful hard to get people interested until they can drive out and look at it,” Elliott said. “Once you get them out there, it’s ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s a lot bigger than I thought.’ It’s 208 acres. It’s a huge facility.”
The primary purpose of the game and fish commission’s participation is to provide shooting education for youth. Elliott said local high school teams are anxious to get started.
JONESBORO — Charlie Ray Partain Jr.’s problems didn’t end Friday with District Judge David Boling giving him a $150,000 bond on charges he committed a string of vehicle break-ins last Thursday.
Later Friday, Boling filed a motion in circuit court to revoke his three probations for previous crimes.
Partain pleaded guilty in 2019 to a terroristic act and received five years of supervised probation.
In 2020, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and breaking or entering in two separate cases and received five years supervised probation on each case.
Now Partain is looking at 15 years in prison for his past misdeeds as well as even more time if he’s convicted of new charges, which Boling said were 31 counts.
In a petition to revoke his probation, prosecutors said Partain “has failed to live a crime-free life” and cited a theft by receiving of a credit or debit card and fraudulent use of the card in February.
The petition also cited that Partain has a balance of $1,770 due to the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office for restitution, fines and court costs, which “the defendant has willfully failed and refused to pay.”
Partain bonded out of Craighead County Detention Center on Friday afternoon.
The terroristic act that Partain pleaded guilty to in 2019 involved a drive-by shooting in which Partain, then 16, shot at an apartment on Pineview Street in north Jonesboro. He was charged as an adult in that shooting.
According to a Sun news story at the time, police said they found three bullet holes in the southside of the apartments, as well as bullet holes inside the building.
The driver of the vehicle from which Partain fired at the apartment was Kameron Irby, who was charged in a March 2020 shooting on Melrose Street. Partin was later charged with first-degree terroristic threatening for posting a video online where he held a gun and said he wanted to shoot the police investigator. He was arrested and given a $500,000 bond.
JONESBORO — A metal detector sits pushed against the wall in the Justice Complex on Church Street; its lack of use a concern for Craighead County District Judges.
In a presentation to the quorum court on April 26, Judge Tommy Fowler said the metal detectors were purchased on June 3, 2020, with a $7,500 grant.
They were assembled but have yet to be put to use, although both Fowler and Judge David Boling have had several meetings with both city and county officials regarding hiring officers to provide extra security in district court.
What’s more disturbing to both district judges is a statement Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd told quorum court members. Boyd said court security officers have turned away five to six people from entering the circuit courtroom because those people were carrying guns.
Fowler said that number does not including the people court security turns away with knives.
“They stopped keeping track of those because there are too many to count,” Fowler said.
Fowler presented three videos in the presentation depicting acts of courtroom violence, two of which occurred in the district courtroom.
“We have big concerns about the need for additional security in our building,” he said.
Although both he and Boling have worked diligently to establish good repertoire and relationships within the community, Fowler said there are still times when situations in the courtroom escalate.
“Some people are just aggravated and angry because they feel they did not deserve a fine,” he said.
Although both district judges do their best to give everyone a voice, Fowler said sometimes that is not enough.
A case in point was the courtroom incident that occurred Nov. 22, 2019, where a defendant made it into district court with a three-foot knife hidden in an umbrella.
Fowler said another incident occurred on June 16, 2020.
According to a report from the Jonesboro Police Department, Kennedy Felix refused to leave the front entrance of the Justice Complex and kept repeatedly telling the officer on duty he needed to see the judge.
The situation continued to escalate as the officer denied Felix entrance into the courtroom.
According to the report, Felix then threatened the judge and also threatened to take the officer’s gun.
Fowler said those situations are concerning, especially for the clerks just beyond the doors.
“I hate to think what would happen if he had gotten beyond the front doors,” Fowler said.
Bill Campbell, the City of Jonesboro’s communication director, issued a statement from Mayor Harold Copenhaver’s office.
“The mayor has met with the judges and understands and respects their needs. He wants them to feel secure and is also looking for funds to better secure the Municipal Center and other city facilities,” the statement reads. “As to the district court, it is a cooperatively funded facility among all the Craighead County municipalities.”
Craighead County Judge Marvin Day said after last week’s meeting all the county mayors requested a meeting be scheduled to discuss the issue.
“We are trying to find ways to come up with the funding,” Day said. “One issue is that it is a city-owned building … and people want to know how do they want to secure their part of the building.”
Day also said there are security measures being used.
“Although security officers are not utilizing the new metal detectors, they are using wands to check people for weapons as they enter the premises,” he said.
Fowler said district court needs two full-time bailiffs who would be actual employees of the court.
“We would settle for one full-time and one part-time officer,” he said, noting the best-case scenario would be the approval of three security guards.
Fowler said the cost would be split between 10 cities in Craighead County.
“Jonesboro would have 68 to 70 percent of the cost,” he said, noting the vast majority of citations are issued within city limits.
For now, until the situation is resolved, Fowler said both JPD officers and Craighead County deputies are splitting duties.
“The warrants officers … are provided Monday and Wednesday ...,” Fowler said. “On Tuesday and Thursday, the sheriff is providing bailiffs.”
Fowler said the downfall is sometimes they have officers on duty who are not trained as bailiffs.
Fowler said he and Boling want to have court officers who are licensed and certified to carry a weapon.
“We also want them to have arrest authority,” he said.
“We don’t have a bank account; we have to put budget requests into the quorum court,” Fowler added. “We are good stewards of our money, and we are not wasting money on needless spending.”
JONESBORO — The coronavirus death toll rose by four to 5,747 Monday, including one from Craighead County.
The Arkansas Department of Health reported 61 new cases – including 44 confirmed by lab testing.
To date, at least 336,166 people in Arkansas are believed to have contracted the disease.
Active cases stood at 1,939 Monday
Monday’s numbers were the result of 1,413 tests.
Hospitalizations rose by one to 172, including 29 who were on ventilators. That’s up from 26 on Sunday. Northeast Arkansas hospitals had 31 patients in beds Monday, an increase of seven. Three were on ventilators.
The health department reported that the top counties for new cases were: Benton, 11; Pulaski, 9; and Faulkner, 8. Craighead County had 7.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “Today’s report shows a higher level of vaccinations than this time last week. Thanks to everyone for doing your part. We are continuing to monitor new cases and variants across the state, but the best way to prevent the spread is by getting vaccinated. Get your shot today.”
Northeast Arkansas COVID-19 cases by county through Monday:
Craighead – 11,585 confirmed, 1,791 probable, 115 active cases; 159 confirmed, 20 probable.
Greene – 4,851 confirmed, 1,253 probable; 34 active; 63 confirmed deaths, 12 probable.
Lawrence – 1,692 confirmed, 419 probable; 24 active; 39 confirmed deaths, 4 probable.
Poinsett – 2,752 confirmed, 408 probable; 11 active; 61 confirmed deaths, 16 probable.