FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Investigators were trying to determine why a man “ambushed and executed” a city police officer who was sitting in his patrol car outside police headquarters in a college town in northwest Arkansas.
The Saturday death of Fayetteville Police Officer Stephen Carr was one of three killings of police officers nationwide in a two-day period.
Carr, 27, was a patrol officer in Fayetteville’s Dickson Street entertainment district, an area popular with students at the nearby University of Arkansas, police said. Fayetteville Police Chief Mike Reynolds said Sunday that Carr was sitting in his patrol car Saturday night when a man approached the vehicle and shot him several times at point-blank range.
Two officers who were inside the police station heard the gunfire, ran outside, and opened fire on the suspect, killing him, police said. Authorities on Sunday identified the suspect as London Phillips, 35, of Fayetteville.
The officers who opened fire on Phillips — identified Sunday as Cpl. Seay Floyd and officer Natalie Eucce — are on paid leave pending an internal investigation, police said.
Police said they don’t know why Phillips shot Carr but that they believe Phillips set out to kill a police officer.
“All I know is that this was a cowardly act. I have no information that leads me to believe that he targeted this officer specifically. He was looking for an officer to kill,” Reynolds said during a news conference Sunday.
Reynolds said Phillips used a 9 mm Taurus pistol and had two boxes of ammunition with him.
Fayetteville police had a “brief history” with Phillips, Reynolds said. Police received a call in December 2018 about Phillips impersonating a police officer, he said. In April, Phillips pawned a gun at a local pawn shop. Reynolds said the owner of the shop would not return the gun because Phillips had a medical marijuana card, which disqualifies someone from possessing a gun in Arkansas.
Reynolds became choked up and appeared to fight back tears during the news conference. He said Carr was from Texas and had joined the Fayetteville police department about 2 1/2 years ago. He was a patrol officer who was assigned to the entertainment district.
“He’s a hero,” Reynolds said.
“He was an all-American boy,” he said. “He came from a law enforcement family. He knew what the job was about and he just wanted to serve his community.”
Reynolds said there has been an outpouring of shock, disbelief and support from people in Fayetteville and the surrounding area.
“I think it just proves that we’re not immune and that officers are being targeted every day throughout our country. It’s just unfortunate,” he said.
Fayetteville police have asked the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI to investigate. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office declined to release details of the investigation Sunday.
The fatal Arkansas shooting followed the shooting death of a Houston police officer Saturday night and the killing of an Alabama police officer on Friday.
According to the FBI, 43 police officers have been killed so far in 2019. During the same period last year, 53 officers had been killed. Another 37 officers have died in accidents, such as car crashes, so far in 2019.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday ordered the United States and Arkansas flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Carr.
“As evident in Officer Carr’s life, as well as in his death, he had a determination to serve his fellow man,” Hutchinson’s proclamation said. “His bravery and actions will continue to inspire the people of Arkansas and is worthy of our remembrance.”