JONESBORO, Ark. – In a letter to Arkansas State Police, Prosecutor Scott Ellington called police actions on Dec. 11 at the Gladiolus Apartments “justified.”
Here is the letter, in full:
Colonel Bill Bryant Arkansas State Police VIA EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
RE: Jonesboro Police Department Officer Involved Shooting
Dear Col. Bryant:
On December 11, 2018 the Jonesboro Police Department (JPD) responded to a shooting at the Gladiolus Apartments, building E, Apartment 11. Upon arrival they found a 41-year-old male, who had sustained several gunshot wounds. Further investigation revealed that the victim was the maintenance man for the complex. The victim further advised that the tenant at the above apartment had failed to pay the rent, and after several attempts to contact her, he made entry into the apartment where he was met with gunfire from the tenant.
JPD immediately attempted to contact the tenant, who they identified as 56-year-old Brenda Thomas. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, JPD continued trying to establish contact with Thomas, with no success.
JPD SWAT successfully deployed a remote camera into the apartment and they were able to determine that Thomas was in the bathroom of the apartment and a handgun was visible in her hand.
Several attempts were made to peacefully end the stand-off, which were all unsuccessful. OC and CS gas was deployed into the residence in heavy concentrations, and the remote camera showed that this was having no effect on Thomas. When the gas failed, JPD SWAT deployed noise distraction devices (flash bangs), which again appeared to have no effect on Thomas.
After over four (4) hours of failed negotiations and failed tactics the JPD command staff made the decision to deploy a canine (Gabo) into the residence in an attempt for Gabo to engage Thomas and get her into the open where officers could subdue her with less than lethal methods.
Gabo was shot upon entry, his handler (JPD Officer Erik Johnson), was directly exposed to potential gunfire from Thomas. At that time, he began retrieving Gabo from the apartment, as JPD Swat Officer’s JASON CHESTER, JOSH LANDRETH and NATHAN IVY made entry into the residence and engaged Thomas, who was still in the bathroom area and still armed with a handgun. CHESTER and LANDRETH made direct contact with Thomas, who raised her firearm up and pointed it in the direction of the two (2). Both CHESTER and LANDRETH fired their service weapons as did IVY who was providing cover for CHESTER and LANDRETH.
Thomas was struck three (3) times by JPD gunfire and succumbed to her wounds a short time later at an area hospital.
The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division’s investigation has revealed that Thomas did in fact shoot the maintenance man as he entered her apartment and his presence had been announced for approximately forty-five (45) minutes prior to his entry. The attack was unprovoked.
JPD exhausted every means at their disposal to end the standoff peacefully. When the decision was made to deploy Gabo, JPD announced in a clear and precise wording that they were going to deploy Gabo, giving Thomas ample opportunity to surrender.
Thomas did in fact fire her weapon at Gabo critically wounding him. CHESTER, LANDRETH and IVY made entry at the direction of their command and engaged Thomas. Arkansas Code Annotated Section 5-2-601(b)(2) allows the use of deadly force if the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use – or imminent use – of deadly force. My preliminary finding is that the officers CHESTER and LANDRETH fired their weapons in self-defense, IVY fired his weapon in defense of his fellow officers, and their actions were justified. No prosecution will follow.
This matter will remain an open investigation until all evidence from the Crime Lab, including the autopsy and toxicology report.
Scott Ellington Prosecuting Attorney 2nd Judicial District