Tuesday, November 27, 2012

TOP STORY >> Ward man posts bond in death

Leader staff writer

The Ward man accused of murder in the shooting death of an employee was released from the Lonoke County Jail Tuesday on a $100,000 bond.

Christopher Reynolds, 34, is represented by attorney Hubert Alexander of Jacksonville.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said Reynolds has not been officially charged in the death of Ernest Hoskins, Jr., 21, of North Little Rock.

Graham expects to get the case file from investigators with the Arkansas State Police next week and file charges of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

Reynolds admits to killing Hoskins, Graham said. Hoskins worked at Reynolds’ business, which sells equipment that reduces gas mileage.

Reynolds reportedly said he was attempting to de-cock the .44-magnum pistol he had been pointing at Hoskins, who is black, when the gun discharged and shot Hoskins in the head.

The shooting was on Nov. 9 and Reynolds, who is white, was not arrested until Saturday. In the interim, Hoskins’ family retained Ben Crump, the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot to death 11 months ago by George Zimmerman as he walked through a multi-ethnic gated community in Sanford, Fla.

Crump’s law firm specializes in wrongful death, malpractice, personal injury and civil rights cases.

The case has received much media attention since Crump was hired. One report from Channel 11 in Little Rock can be found on You Tube under the title “Bizarre Cover-up Type Activity Surrounding Death of Ernest Hoskins Jr. During Business Meeting.”

But Graham said after Reynolds was arrested that investigations take as long as they take and that the race of the shooter and the victim were not a consideration.

“I don’t care what color people are. We just do our job,” Graham said. “I didn’t know the victim was black until the NAACP called me.”

Graham has asked police departments throughout the county to call him when they get cases that are likely to be turned over to him.

He said this week that Ward Police Chief Steve Benton called him within 30 minutes after he got the call about the shooting at 26 Deer Run.

Together, they decided to call the State Police to investigate because the Ward Police Department lacked the manpower. Mayor Art Brooke said the police department lacked the lie detectors that were needed for the investigation.

“Ward does a fine job but they’re short of people,” Graham said. “There’s nothing sinister there. It was just manpower.”

Special Agent David R. Moss interviewed Reynolds at the Ward Police Department the evening Hoskins was killed. He made this statement, which Reynolds signed, according the affidavit for his arrest:

“On Nov. 9, 2012, at approximately 2 p.m., I was conducting a meeting at my house for my business. My business reduces gas mileage on vehicles. Rachel Watson, Brian Washington, Melissa Peoples and Ernest Hoskins were at my house for the meeting.

“All four are my employees. I was discussing with Ernest why his sales figures for the week were so low. He had lower figures than Melissa and Rachel,” Reynolds continued.

“Ernest told me that I needed to get off my couch and work as well. We were bantering back and forth. I picked up a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum pistol from behind me.

“I pointed the pistol at Ernest’s head and we were bantering for approximately one minute. I pulled the trigger and the gun did not go off. I then pulled the slide back and a round went into the chamber.

“I tried to de-cock the hammer on the pistol by pulling the trigger and holding the hammer and it moved forward,” Reynolds continued.

“The gun then went off and struck Ernest in the face. I put the gun back up and called 911. I have had weapons and firearms training while I was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force,” he said.

Graham said the aggravated assault charges are from Reynolds holding the gun on Hoskins. Aggravated assault is a felony. Anyone who kills another person during the commission of a felony is charged with murder.

Reynolds is set for plea and arraignment before Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore at 9 a.m. Jan. 7.