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2008 Trooper Of The Year Award

ASP Special Agent Scott Clark (center) is presented the 2008 Trooper of the Year Award

ASP Special Agent Scott Clark (center) is presented the 2008 Trooper of the Year Award

Arkansas State Police Special Agent, Corporal Scott Clark, 40, of Gurdon, was presented with the 2008 Trooper of the Year Award Thursday.

Clark is assigned to the department’s Criminal Investigation Division, Company C, headquartered at Hope. He is a 14-year veteran of the department.

Company C Sergeant John Bishop, 58, of Bradley, a 35-year veteran of the department, S/A Clark and Hempstead County Deputy Sheriff Frank McJunkins were each given awards for their valor and selfless independent acts of bravery during an attack by gunfire on March 12th 2008 south of Hope.

The three officers had left a murder scene investigation and drove several miles to a mobile home situated in a secluded, wooded area of rural Hempstead County. It was at the mobile home officers believed they might locate a suspect wanted in connection with the initial murder investigation.

The State Police Special Agents were told by a resident at the home that no one was inside. S/A Clark and Deputy McJunkins obtained consent to enter the home while Sergeant Bishop took up a position to guard the home exits. As Clark and McJunkins approached a rear bedroom area inside the home, an individual later identified as the murder suspect, was discovered hiding behind a plastic sheet and opened fire on the officers wounding S/A Clark.

Clark and McJunkins returned fire simultaneously as Sergeant Bishop entered the home and began laying suppressive fire in order to provide cover for Clark and McJunkins to take safer positions.

Although wounded, S/A Clark managed to escape the gunfire and return to his car to retrieve a second firearm at which time he was directed to retreat from the area and be transported to a hospital by another State Police Special Agent who had arrived on the scene.

The suspect was later determined to have been killed in the exchange of gunfire with officers.

In nominating the officers for their awards, Company C commander, Lieutenant Glenn Sligh cited S/A Clark for his “bravery and perseverance under fire and his willingness to return to the scene after being wounded to protect his fellow officers…”

The department’s Medal of Valor nomination credits Sergeant Bishop for, “…stepping into the line of fire to protect a fallen officer … (and) his presence of mind to see what needed to be done under extremely stressful circumstances … and his ability to communicate that to responding officers…”

S/A Clark continues today to investigate criminal cases for the department across southwest Arkansas.

Other award recipients include:

Medal of Valor

  • S/A’s Sergeant John Bishop and Corporal Scott Clark (see preceding narrative).
  • State Police Corporal Elvis Mull of Little Rock and Troopers Jimmy Mitchell of Jacksonville and Robert Middleton of Little Rock, each assigned to the department’s Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, received Medals of Valor for, “…brave and heroic actions” as the Troopers pursued a suspect wanted in connection with the August 13, 2008 murder of Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney. As the pursuit ended at Sheridan (Grant County) the Troopers found themselves in dangerously close proximity to the suspect who had begun to take-up an armed defensive position when he was shot and killed by officers. The nomination of the Troopers for the Medal of Valor submitted by Captain Gloria Weakland reads, “…The trooper knew that this dangerous assailant, without provocation, had brutally shot an innocent person, threatened others and would no doubt use the same deadly force on them.” In conclusion Captain Weakland writes, “Bravely and without hesitation, they fired upon the felon and their shots brought the subject to the ground, thus ending the chance of more tragic events transpiring.”
  • Corporal Robin Kuykendall, of Alma, assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop H was presented a Medal of Valor for his role in locating a suspect wanted for shooting and wounding a Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputy. During the late evening hours of March 16th 2008, while securing a perimeter around the initial shooting scene, Corporal Kuykendall detected, with the aid of an electronic surveillance device, an individual believed to be hiding in an area surrounded by thick underbrush. With the assistance of other Arkansas State Police personnel along the perimeter, Corporal Kuykendall coordinated a means with other nearby officers to illuminate the area. As the light was directed at the underbrush, an individual rose to a prone position holding a shotgun. The suspect was repeatedly ordered to drop the weapon. As he continued to rise and chamber the shotgun with a shell, officers fired on the suspect killing the man believed to have wounded the local sheriff’s deputy. The nomination narrative submitted by Captain Steve Coleman states, “…the actions of Corporal Kuykendall…were commendable and courageous.” Captain Coleman further credited the keen threat awareness of Corporal Kuykendall and his ability to respond appropriately in order to protect other law enforcement officers and citizens in the immediate area.

Trooper’s Cross

  • Corporal Chris Waters, of Van Buren, assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop H, was presented a Trooper’s Cross for his actions on March 16th 2008 at Van Buren (see preceding narrative relating to Corporal Robin Kuykendall). It was Corporal Waters who exposed himself by illuminating an area where an armed shooting suspect was hiding. Corporal Waters was nominated for the award based on his commander’s acknowledgment of courage of Waters and his selfless steadfast readiness to protect fellow officers along the perimeter.
  • Corporals Royce Denney of Griffithville and Tony Bowman of McRae, assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop B for their independent roles in the September 10th 2008 stand-off with an armed suspect wanted in connection with a murder and aggravated assault of two White County women. The Troopers are credited with maintaining a calm verbal exchange with the suspect who was armed with a shotgun and had fled the murder scene. During the course of the stand-off the Troopers were able to “courageously” close the distance between themselves and the suspect who eventually surrendered the weapon and was taken into custody.

Memorial Medal

  • The Family of Sergeant Richard LeBow, of Ozark was presented the department’s Memorial Medal. Sergeant LeBow, a 27-year veteran of the department, assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop H, died in the line of duty during a vehicle crash along Interstate 40 on February 4th 2008. Sergeant LeBow was 51 at the time of his death.

Lifesaving Medal

  • Captain Mark Allen, of Little Rock, assigned to the department’s Highway Patrol Division command offices, is credited with rescuing two Little Rock Police officers who were semi-conscious and trapped inside a patrol car that had begun to smolder and fill with smoke. The October 12th 2008 incident occurred along Highway 10 in west Little Rock after the patrol car crashed into a concrete and stone sign. Captain Allen is credited with using a police baton to break the patrol car glass windows and extricate the officers to safety.
  • Corporal Doug Thomas, of Jonesboro, assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop C, is credited with saving the life of a 10-month old child. The chain of events associated with the case has been described as miraculous. In the nomination of Corporal Thomas for the award, State Police personnel have stated, “Corporal Thomas went beyond the call of duty in his actions … and heroically exercised his skills as an Arkansas State Trooper, maintaining a calm demeanor, calling upon all available resources and refusing to surrender his determined efforts to save the child.”
  • On February 17th 2008 a vehicle traveling along State Highway 230 west of Bono veered off the highway, struck a bridge guardrail, causing the vehicle to be vaulted into an inverted position and landing in the cold, dark water below. Witnesses immediately rushed into the waters to rescue a woman who had freed herself from the car which was partially submerged. As Corporal Thomas arrived on the scene he joined other witnesses who had re-entered the waters in an attempt to recover the infant daughter of the woman who had been initially rescued. Several attempts were made to enter the submerged vehicle and release the infant from her safety seat. With the assistance of the witnesses, Corporal Thomas was able to upright the vehicle still in the deep water and using a knife, cut the restraining straps holding the infant seat.

    An investigation has determined the child was submerged underwater for 15 to 20 minutes. Once he had removed the baby from the car, Corporal Thomas carried the child to an off-duty nurse who had stopped along the highway to render aid. Resuscitation was initiated and CPR was continued until the infant could be rushed to a Jonesboro hospital. The child was initially listed in critical condition and not expected to survive. Over the course of two-weeks following the traffic crash, doctors reported to State Police the child was rapidly improving and brain scans were positive. The child was eventually removed from life support and demonstrated her ability to breath without medical assistance.

  • Corporal Ramey Lovan, of Paragould, assigned to the Highway Patrol Division, Troop C, received a department lifesaving medal for his selfless act of courage on April 30th 2008 while assigned to escort Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. While transporting the lieutenant governor, Corporal Lovan became aware of thick smoke in a local neighborhood and located a residence engulfed in flames with a handicapped individual who had fallen from her wheelchair and trapped near the structure’s front door. Corporal Lovan exited his patrol car and quickly assessed the situation to confirm no one was inside the burning house, then with the aid of the Lieutenant Governor Halter, removed the woman from the imminent threat of being burned.
  • Corporal David Williams, of DeValls Bluff, assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop D, was recognized for his June 1st 2008 efforts to save a newborn baby. Corporal Williams was dispatched to a call of a man and woman requesting aid at the Interstate 40, White River Rest Area. Corporal Williams located a female inside a pick-up truck who had only minutes earlier delivered a newborn. The child was unresponsive and the umbilical cord was still attached. Corporal Williams immediately began to wipe the baby’s face and clear an airway obstruction while simultaneously stimulating the baby to begin breathing. The infant was initially unresponsive, but later began to exhibit movement and gasping for breaths. Corporal Williams’ unwavering commitment to use all available resources and his training to protect and sustain the life of the newborn have been cited by physicians as extraordinary measures which saved the life of the child and are a credit to the service of Corporal Williams and the department.

Civilian Employee of the Year

  • Karen Nitschke, of North Little Rock, is a 34 year veteran of the department. Ms. Nitschke is assigned to the Administrative Services Division and is the lead headquarters receptionist and information specialist stationed at department’s main switchboard. Ms. Nitschke is one of more than 400 non-commissioned employees who serve in support roles for the State Police enforcement, regulatory and administrative duties. In nominating Ms. Nitschke, her supervisors wrote, “Citizens are professionally served by Karen … whether in person or by telephone, no matter the backlog of calls, Karen maintains a high degree of professionalism and an extraordinary spirit, even under the worst of circumstances that may confront her…”

Distinguished Meritorious Service Award

  • Corporal Roby Rhoads, of Atkins, is the recipient of the department’s Meritorious Service Award. As the department’s K-9 coordinator, Corporal Rhoads’ duties are under the command of the department’s Highway Patrol Division administrative command office at Little Rock. Along with his enforcement duties as a Trooper assigned to Troop J, Corporal Rhoads manages the training and certification criteria of sixteen State Police canines and handlers. During 2008 the Arkansas State Police Canine Corps aided law enforcement officers in the detection of approximately 4,000 pounds of illegal drugs and $1.7 million dollars in cash proceeds associated with illegal drug transactions.

Distinguished Service Award

  • Lieutenant Frank McJunkins, of the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Department was awarded the department’s Distinguished Service Award for his assisting role in a March 12th 2008 shoot-out between law enforcement officers and a Hempstead County murder suspect (see third paragraph, page one of this release).
  • John Begley of Grannis and Ethan McClung of Mountain View for their October 5th 2008 act of heroism, selfless disregard for their own personal wellbeing, and compassion for human life that ultimately saved the life of an individual trapped inside a burning vehicle involved in a highway crash along a Stone County highway.

Official Commendations

  • Corporal Carl Dunn, of Pine Bluff, assigned to Highway Patrol Troop E, for rendering aid to a motor-vehicle driver trapped between a vehicle and the wall of a structure.
  • Linda Dulaney, of Sherwood, assigned to the department’s Crimes Against Children Hotline who received a transfer call on April 16th 2008 from the Northwest Arkansas Crisis Center. The caller was a teenager contemplating suicide. Dulaney was successful in maintaining a conversation with the teenager while other operators assigned to the Hotline coordinated a reverse trace to lead local law enforcement to the location where the call was originating.
  • Corporal Ronnie Stewart, of Mammoth Springs, assigned to Highway Patrol Troop I was recognized for his successful efforts to remove a handgun from an individual parked alongside a local highway and threatening suicide.
  • Corporal Wendall Jines, of Cherokee Village, assigned to Criminal Investigation Division, Company F, for his tenacity and use of skillful investigative resources which ultimately led to an arrest in connection with eighteen fires intentionally set in Randolph County beginning in 2007 and continuing through 2008.
  • Sergeant Kim Fontaine, of Pine Bluff and Telecom Operator Etta Mothershed, of Dumas, assigned to Highway Patrol Troop E, were recognized for the successful organization of a Law Enforcement Day involving ten southeast Arkansas agencies.
  • Corporal Todd Shaw, of Melbourne, is credited with the planning and execution of a multi-law enforcement agency raid on a 40-acre marijuana growing operation where more than 8,000 plants were seized and six arrests occurred.
  • Sergeant Jackie Speer, of Little Rock, assigned to the department’s Administrative Services Division, Training Section, for his three-year long program teaching emergency vehicle driving operations.
  • Corporal Dennis Overton, of Hot Springs, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop K, for his 2008 Criminal Patrol initiatives which resulted in the seizure of 41 pounds of marijuana, 6 kilograms of cocaine and in excess of $450,000 in cash proceeds used in illegal drug trafficking.
  • Corporal Kelly Watkins, of Hot Springs Village, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop K, for his personal initiative to develop a mentoring program for local elementary school age children. Corporal Watkins uses his “Mike the Talking Bike” program to educate young children about street and highway safety.
  • Trooper Oscar Bullard, of Pine Bluff, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop E, for his community service work as a youth minister and his leadership in youth oriented events established to assist elderly Jefferson County residents.
  • Trooper First Class Chris Goodman, of Russellville, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop J, for his 2008 Criminal Patrol initiatives which resulted in the seizure of approximately 2,198 pounds of marijuana, 33 pounds of cocaine, and in excess of $550,000 in cash proceeds used in illegal drug trafficking.
  • Corporal Vic Coleman, of Little Rock, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop A, for his 2008 Criminal Patrol initiatives which resulted in the seizure of approximately 670 pounds of marijuana, 24 pounds of cocaine, 2 pounds of methamphetamine and in excess $440,000 in cash proceeds used in illegal drug trafficking.
  • Corporal Trenton Behnke, of Little Rock, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop A, for his 2008 Criminal Patrol initiatives which resulted in the seizure of approximately 270 pounds of marijuana, 6 pounds of cocaine and in excess of $179,000 in cash proceeds used in illegal drug trafficking.
  • Trooper Aleksandar Krneta, of Hot Springs, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop K, for his cumulative efforts during 2008 to identify and arrest drunk drivers. Trooper Krneta is credited with 75 DWI/DUI arrests.
  • Sheila Stanley, of Malvern, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop K, for her exemplary cumulative job record which spans more than 22 years of public service in a non-commissioned law enforcement office capacity.
  • Trooper Chad Staley, of Malvern, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop K, for his cumulative efforts during 2008 to identify and arrest drunk drivers. Trooper Staley is credited with 67 DWI/DUI arrests.
  • Corporal Ron Casey, of Sheridan, assigned to Highway Patrol, Troop K, for his initiatives during 2008 to reduce the number of highway traffic crashes in the Grant County area. Corporal Case is credited with issuing 1,200 traffic citations for hazardous driving violations and arresting 45 drunk drivers.



Monroe police officers honored

Ten Monroe police officers were honored Friday for their part in the rescue of an infant following a June double murder-suicide.

During a brief ceremony, Monroe Police Chief Ron Schleuter awarded the department’s Medal of Valor to members of the department’s Special Response Team for their part in the June 11 standoff at a home on North McGuire Street. During the incident, SRT members entered the home during an armed standoff and rescued a crying infant who was lying on the floor.

“They made entry into the home without regard to themselves,” Schleuter said. “We felt that given the fact they went into the situation without regard for their safety, they deserved to be recognized for what they did.”

Officers recognized were Hank Smith, Mark Johnson, Jeff Gilbert, Mark Nappier, Jerry Melton, Carey Satrey, Lee Bishop, Quinton Holmes, Ted Kincannon and Jamie Eppinette.

On June 11, Bobby Brantley walked into a North McGuire Street home and shot his estranged wife and her mother before shooting himself after a standoff as police entered the house to save a 4-month-old boy, who was lying next to one of the women.

According to police and eyewitness accounts, Brantley went to the house shortly before noon armed with two shotguns, shooting and swearing as he approached.

His estranged wife, Theresa Brantley, 31, was pronounced dead at the scene, along with 55-year-old Treeba Ryder and Bobby Brantley. Theresa Brantley’s father, Clinton Ryder, 60, survived a glancing blast to the face from a shotgun.

A two-hour standoff ensued with dozens of emergency personnel, including Monroe police and fire, state troopers and SWAT officers. Schleuter said the Special Response Team decided to go into the home after it sent a digitally equipped robot inside and heard the infant cry. Through the robot camera, they also could see a woman lying on the floor.

The women, he said, were already dead when the response team went in.

As Gilbert and Bishop walked into the kitchen, they saw Brantley shoot himself.

“It was a very unfortunate incident — tragic,” Bishop said. “But it’s an honor to be recognized.

“So many times in your career you encounter these kinds of things in the line of duty and it’s nice to be appreciated.”

In June, the police department honored the Ryders’ neighbor Alissa Gaines, with a certificate of appreciation and a coin of commendation for helping three children who were in the house get to safety after the first shots were fired.


Salt Lake City Police academy graduates 23 as applications drop

James Bishop was inspired to become a Salt Lake City policeman through work as an IT specialist.

After a stint working as a tech for a law enforcement agency, the 33-year-old decided he could do more good on the street than programming systems in an office.

So Bishop did what other men and women his age and younger are doing less often than their counterparts of 20 years ago: He enrolled in the Salt Lake City Police Academy for 21 weeks of training that would teach him the skills he’ll put to use as a rookie cop.

Bishop was one of 23 men and women who graduated from the Salt Lake City Police Academy on Wednesday during a show of pomp and circumstance where newly anointed officers reflected on the coursework they had completed covering the physical, intellectual and ethical demands of police work. For many, the opportunity to be a cop offers a meaningful career that allows them to give back to the community, Bishop said.

“I think it’s a good career. You learn how blessed you are to not have problems,” Bishop said. “And you get to help people who do.”

But as the Salt Lake City Police Department welcomes its newest recruits, Chief Chris Burbank acknowledges young talent like Bishop is harder to come by than when he started his career.

About 20 years ago, more than 1,500 applications would pour in for coveted academy spots, Burbank said. Now, the department receives only a 100 to 200 applications for the same 30 or so academy positions.

As a result, the police department is spending more time recruiting at colleges and making a pitch to military veterans about the rewards of a career in policing.The decline in number of police recruits has been noticed by researchers at The University of Utah’s Center for Policy and Public Administration, which this month unveiled a report on the benefits young officers could bring to Utah’s aging police force.

The report “What Generation Y Brings To Law Enforcement and How Police Agencies Can Benefit,” authored by West Jordan Police Department Sgt. Drew Sanders and Angie Stefaniak, a program manager at the center, estimates that Utah will need to add 800 officers to its police force by 2016 to keep up with population growth and the retirement of existing officers.

That number is a 20.6 percent increase in the number of officers employed in Utah. According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services Occupational Projections Report for Police and Sheriffs Patrol Officers, there are 3,870 police officers currently employed in the state.

With more officers from the Baby Boomer generation retiring after completing 20 years of service, researchers point to Generation Y — those born in 1979 or later — as a resource to fill the gap. The problem, however, is that young professionals often see police work as a temporary job and opt out for better-paying or other lines of work after a few years, Burbank said.

Many also have a false impression of the public service aspect of police work. Young candidates may be uniformed about the career possibilities within the department and instead rely on inaccurate portrayals of policing, Burbank said.

“They think what they see on TV is what policing really is,” he said.

Sanders and Stefaniak cite the trend Burbank is experiencing to similar findings across the United States. There is evidence Generation Y across the country “may not view law enforcement as a lifelong career,” they wrote in the report.

While Burbank has seen evidence of that, Wednesday’s graduation is proof that plenty of young candidates are driven to work in law enforcement. He said the department will continue to be proactive in educating the public — especially younger members — about the realities of policing and the career potential the profession holds.

Officer Aaron Johnson, valedictorian of the 126th academy class, said the job will always be appealing to those who want to make a difference.

“I like to make wrongs, rights,” Johnson said after Wednesday’s ceremony. “I think it’s a noble profession.”