Silence preceded violence as staff drilled the lock to enter shooter’s residence
JONESBORO, Ark. – Maintenance staff thought an apartment unit was empty until they made entry and were hit by gunfire Tuesday afternoon at the Gladiolus Apartments in Jonesboro.
Not only did maintenance personnel try to enter the suspect’s apartment by knocking and announcing their presence, but they even drilled the lock before the suspect, Brenda Thomas, 56, of Jonesboro, began firing.
This is according to a source close to the incident asking to remain anonymous.
The tenant never said a word, the source said, as several staff members knocked and said they were there for maintenance. The tenant had not paid rent and was to be evicted on the 11th day of December. But when maintenance tried to enter, they couldn’t get the lock to work.
“We think she jammed it somehow,” the anonymous source said.
They drilled the lock to enter, the whole time thinking the residence was empty. Instead, they got the door open and gunfire erupted. Dennis Mardis, 41, appeared to be shot in the arm and grazed in the neck. Fortunately, he was alert and awake Tuesday night after being flown to a Memphis critical care unit, a friend of his said in our Facebook live broadcast chat. Mardis was able to go home from the hospital Tuesday night.
But a tense stand-off began as he was receiving medical care. One constant remained throughout the bizarre situation: the woman never spoke. Not to maintenance staff or to police, Chief Rick Elliott told NEA Report on Wednesday.
Police worked to negotiate with the suspect as they activated both the Crisis Negotiation Team and S.W.A.T. members, along with medics. Hours went by and no successful contact was made. Around 7:30 PM, authorities could be heard shouting commands to the woman. Not long after, police used tear gas. A press release said she took measures to counteract the chemical munitions and “stayed in the apartment with no response to renewed negotiation efforts.”
The situation seemed hopeless. Police even reached family to try to get a response during the negotiation. With no results, K9 officer Gabo was sent in to attempt to get her out of the apartment. Police say she immediately began shooting at Gabo, so officers entered. The press release said Thomas began firing on the officers. Officers returned fire, neutralizing the woman. Medics and ambulance crews worked on saving her life but she died at the hospital later that night.
The K9 was rushed to a vet’s office. His liver and lungs may have been damaged but despite the severe injuries, Gabo was doing okay late Wednesday, the police chief said.
“It’s tough for everybody involved and in a situation like this, you have to end up with a resolution like last night,” Elliott said. “It’s unfortunate. We did everything we thought we could do.”
Officers exited the unit with their heads down, one witness at the scene said, describing it as “sad.” It was a defeating moment for the authorities who hoped to diffuse a situation which seemed to go no where, according to those we spoke to. Elliott said department morale was as well as could be expected Wednesday.
Arkansas State Police will lead the investigation into the shooting at the request of Jonesboro Police Department.