Wednesday, March 06, 2013

TOP STORY >> Charge reduced in shooting

Leader staff writer

Christopher Reynolds, the Ward man who shot and killed his employee in November, pleaded not guilty in circuit court Monday to manslaughter, a Class C felony which carries a sentence of three to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Reynolds, 34, was not charged with murder as Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said was likely when he was arrested 17 days after he admitted to shooting Ernest Hoskins, 21, in the face.

Reynolds is set for pre-trial on June 3 and jury trial on June 5. He has been out of jail on a $100,000 bond since he was arrested Nov. 26.

Graham recused himself from the case and Jack McQuary from the state Office of Prosecutor Coordinator was appointed as special prosecutor in late January.

McQuary said Tuesday that after interviewing all the witnesses to the shooting and reviewing the State Police investigation, manslaughter was the charge that fit under Arkansas law.

Usually, recusal is used to avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest. But Graham said he stepped down because it was apparent to him that Hoskins’ family was uncomfortable with him, and he didn’t want to be the cause of more distress.

The case received national attention after the Hoskins family retained a lawyer specializing in civil-rights cases during the 17 days between the shooting and Reynolds’ arrest. Reynolds is white. Hoskins was black.

Reynolds shot Hoskins during a business meeting at his home at 26 Deer Run Drive.

He made the following statement to an investigator with the State Police: “On November 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. 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. 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.”

Reynolds is represented by Hubert Alexander of Jacksonville.