Logan County Sheriff Boyd Hicks recently suspended without pay two deputies.
Hicks said last week that Deputy Sheriff Lee Cooper was suspended for six days without pay and Deputy Sheriff Gary Knox was suspended for three days without pay for actions taken during an incident on Thursday April 13. Hicks said that prior to the incident Cooper had already resigned his position with the LCSO.
The incident resulted in a bear being shot by the deputies, Hicks said.
“They were suspended for not following protocol,” Hicks said. “They were assisting the Paris Police Department. They were there to do what they could to assist and not to come in and take over the situation.”
The incident began when a caller advised the Paris Police Department dispatcher that a bear had been hit by a vehicle at 8:36 p.m. on Thursday, April 13 on Highway 109 South in Paris near the entrance to City Lake, according to the PPD’s dispatch log. Two PPD officers were dispatched to the scene and an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officer was notified.
PPD officers on the scene told a dispatcher that the bear was “fairly large” and had gone into a wooded area near the scene. At 8:35 p.m., Paris police were told that a Game and Fish officer was about 20 minutes away and that “officers can put down the bear if it becomes a danger” before the officer arrives, according to the dispatch log.
At 9:06 p.m., Paris officers on the scene reported to the dispatcher that “county deputies are going up the hill to shoot the bear,” according to the dispatch log. At 9:08 p.m. the dispatch log states “numerous shots being fired at this time by deputies.” At 9:12 p.m. the dispatch log states that a Game and Fish officer is on the scene.
“The deputies were not suspended for putting an injured animal out of its misery,” Hick said. “It’s a common practice. But, rather, because they were not dispatched to the scene. They just went. It was Paris PD’s accident in the city limits of Paris.”
“It wasn’t that the bear might not have been needed to be put down, it’s that it wasn’t their call,” Hicks said. “The Paris Police Department was the agency in charge in this incident (it was in their jurisdiction) and they had contacted the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and they had a Wildlife Officer and Game Biologist on the way.”
Hicks said deputies were told, when they arrived, that a Game and Fish officer was on the way and deputies were advised to keep an eye on the bear and “if something changed and/or the bear posed a safety risk, they could put it down if they could do so in a safe manner.”
“These men are good deputies who just made a couple of poor decisions,” Hicks said.