Visitors Concerned About Safety After Burns Park Accident

Visitors Concerned About Safety After Burns Park Accident

An Arkansas Game & Fish Commission wildlife officer and a man believed to be hunting illegally at a city park were injured in a gunfight Saturday morning.
A shoot out has people who use Burns Park worried about their safety.  A wildlife officer traded bullets with a man accused of illegally hunting in the area this weekend.
 
It happened when Matt Flowers was on a routine patrol when he spotted Phillip Kelly wearing camouflage and carrying a gun.
 
Burns Park has a lot to offer like walking trails, tennis courts, camp grounds, picnic areas and playgrounds; there's something for everyone.  But one man we spoke to says hunting has no place here, still wild life officers say it has been a problem. 

Maxwell and his sister Ella are enjoying every minute of their time at the park.  But behind the smile on dad's face is concern for their safety.  "I don't want my kids being hurt by ricochet from a bullet," says Bob Enck

Bullets flew this weekend from the guns of a wild life officer and a man believed to be hunting illegally in the northeast corner of Burns Park.  Both were injured. 
 
While it's hard for Bob to believe anyone would ever hunt near the playground area he's still fearful because they also use the trails in the wooded areas of the park and bullets don't obey boundaries.  "Just a .22 bullet can go a mile and a half.  We were walking through the park this morning we're going on an adventure," says Bob.

Wildlife Officer Ross Spurlock says hunting in parks is a growing problem.  Just Monday he stopped a man sitting in a park well known for illegal hunting and his car was loaded with hunting equipment.  He may have stopped that hunting trip before it started, but that's not always the case.  "They're getting tricky cause we've caught them over the years.  They're getting people to drop them off and they'll call on their cell phones to come pick them up.  At Two Rivers Park their sneaking in in boats."

Spurlock says because of urban sprawl, deer are heading to these areas and hunters know that it is easier to get a big buck.  Plus if they're caught it's only a misdemeanor with a fine of $100.  "I think it needs to be more than just a misdemeanor," says Spurlock.  

Spurlock says another big problem they have is people shooting at deer from their cars.  They often put out decoy deer to catch people doing this.  If caught that's at least a $500 fine.
 
Not only is it illegal to hunt in a park, hunting in city limits is also against the law.  To curb the deer population some cities are holding urban bow hunts.  Also an estimated 10,000 deer are killed on Arkansas highways every year.

Previous Coverage

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas Game & Fish Commission wildlife officer and a man believed to be hunting illegally at a city park were injured in a gunfight Saturday morning.

Authorities say Officer Matt Flowers was on patrol near the northwest corner of Burns Park around 9:30 a.m. when he spotted Phillip Kelly, wearing camouflage clothing and carrying a gun and a knife.

As Flowers approached Kelly, shots were exchanged and both men were struck. Game & Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens says a bullet struck Flowers' bulletproof vest, while Kelly suffered an unknown number of gunshot wounds.

Neighbors in this quiet neighborhood say they're surprised. "You know people all your life and still not know them, " says neighbor Betty Utley.

Around 9:30 Saturday morning, Utley saw several of police cars in front of a house down the street, a house she says she rents out. She's afraid the man who ran inside, and away from officers, is someone she's known since he was a child. "I think he just got scared and didn't know what to do."

After other officers arrived at the scene, Kelly was located at the nearby home of a relative and was taken by ambulance to a St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, authorities said, while Flowers was also taken to a hospital.

Authorities said Kelly would be charged with attempted capital murder.

Stephens said Flowers had been released from the hospital after suffering only bruises. Stephens did not know Kelly's condition.

Officer Carmen Green of the North Little Rock Police Department said that agency was also investigating the shooting.

Utley's concerned this may have something to do with illegal hunting near the park, something she says is a huge problem. "They're always hunting back there in the park and there's always kids back there playing in the park and riding on the four wheelers and stuff and if they're back there hunting, they could shoot anybody that was back there."

Authorities initially named the injured officer as Matt Bird, but the commission issued a statement Sunday identifying him as Matt Flowers. Stephens said Flowers has been a wildlife officer for the last five years.

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