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JONESBORO, Ark. – The first two days of 2019 began with at least three shootings in Jonesboro, two of which were fatal.
This ‘final straw’ seems to have been behind the reveal of a new 2nd Judicial District Organized Criminal Task Force. JPD Police Chief Rick Elliot announced the new group’s pending formation Thursday night before the city council. The task force will fall under the purview of the 2nd Judicial District Prosecutor’s office.
“We will be announcing in the near future the formation of the 2nd Judicial District organized criminal task force,” Elliot told NEA Report on Friday. “Blytheville, Jonesboro, West Memphis all will be included.”
With the second district spanning several counties, the task force will have advantages in being able to share information, share databases, and help correlate data to catch criminals. Criminals often go from one town to another, committing crimes in each community, Elliot said. Police networking with one another can mean a city doesn’t need to wait for the career crook to act again before nabbing them.
No timetable has been set on the creation of the new group. Elliot expects a press conference from 2nd Judicial District Prosecutor Scott Ellington on the matter in the coming weeks.
As we were preparing the case that is commonly referred to as the Basement Shooting we began to see how witnesses stories aligned to favor one of two or three narratives depending on who or what group that person affiliated with. When we discussed with detectives at JPD we learned they were way ahead of us and had already begun compiling a database of those previously arrested and their known affiliates. We decided it was past time to combine our work product hoping to increase our effectiveness in maintaining public safety and especially preserving law and order. The months of November and December were very busy for my office and Chief Elliott’s department, so we weren’t able to make a formal announcement or unveil our plans for this task force – not that such an announcement would have prevented the madness that occurred this week. However, we hope to be able to make that official announcement with all our participating partners within the next few weeks. But rest assured even though we haven’t named our other partners, we are still drawing upon those resources this very minute as we seek to protect the public and enforce the law. – Scott Ellington
At least three shootings took place in the first two days of 2019. Five were shot. Two died.
At 1:30 PM New Year’s Day, the first shooting happened at Big Unk’s barbershop at 1120 W. Huntington. The victim, Lewis CC Gamble, 35, died. The suspect was arrested later that day. Markus Gentry, 29, of Blytheville was arrested Tuesday. But he had been in trouble with police in his hometown before in a serious way.
Gentry was arrested for involvement in a 2016 shooting. Following a standoff, he was arrested for aggravated assaulted and felon in possession. The case stalled. No charges were filed by the 2nd Judicial District Prosecutor’s Office due to a lack of evidence, Prosecutor Scott Ellington said.
“Charges were not filed in the Blytheville case,” Ellington said Wednesday. “He was arrested but there was insufficient evidence to support filing charges.”
Gentry wasn’t the only familiar element to police. A shooting was reported on November 16 at Big Unk’s which resulted in at least one home and separate vehicle being hit. Police found witnesses to be uncooperative and it appeared shots were fired from inside of the barbershop, possibly the ones which struck a house across the road. The investigation was eventually placed on inactive status.
The same night as the fatal barbershop shooting on New Year’s Day, a man was arrested for firing back at a car after he reported another shooting.
This also happened on West Huntington, at the 1300-block.Frank Lashawn Simpson, 35, is facing charges of simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a defaced firearm and possession of meth.
Simpson told police two men approached on foot and started shooting at him so he started shooting back. His bond was set at $500,000. This was previously unreported until Friday.
Wednesday evening, on Galaxy Street near The Mall, the third shooting incident took place. A 16-year-old, Malcom Jemison, died and three brothers were shot – Quenterius Finch, 23, Cedric Finch, 28, and Chauncey Thomas, 21. The three appear to be recovering, social media updates show.
No arrests have been announced in this case.
Elliot hinted Friday that, yet again, the victims and witnesses weren’t cooperating with police.
“We’re battling getting cooperative information from the witnesses but detectives worked late into the evening and are already working hard today to find the suspects,” Elliot said, adding that he had confidence police would make progress in the case.