Friday, January 31, 2014

EDITORIAL >> State relies on farm bill

We grow stuff in Arkansas — most of it legal. And we grow it real good.

Agriculture is one of the things we do best.

Football and basketball are not on the list of things we do well right now, although track and gymnastics are.

Actually, we had a pretty good football harvest out of Jonesboro this year, landing Arkansas State in the Go Daddy Bowl for the third consecutive year.

But mostly what we do is, we grow rice and cotton, wheat, corn, soybeans. We grow strawberries and peaches up around Cabot, blueberries in the Northwest and cows anywhere we can grow grass. We grow chickens and turkeys in places that don’t get too hot, and hogs if we can find a pristine national river to threaten.

We grow tomatoes around Warren — but not the Warren Pink Tomato anymore. We grow grapes around Altus and we turn them into wine at any of several local wineries.

We grow purple hull peas and melons around Gould.

We grow loblolly pine really well in south Arkansas — we don’t cut trees anymore, we plant them in rows and we harvest them with large machines and turn them into building materials and jobs. We grow hardwoods in the Ozark Mountains, where the terrain is inhospitable to giant tree harvesting machines, and cut the big oak and hickory and ash, gum and walnut, skid them to the road—some places by mule—and take them to little pecker-wood sawmills, where they are turned into wood for flooring, or railroad ties.

We grow — or grew — catfish in the southern part of the state, and minnows, goldfish and catfish for pond stocking in the Lonoke County area.

We grow healthy deer and elk through careful population management by the often unpopular state Game and Fish Commission, and thanks to additional habitat management by Ducks Unlimited, the Army Corps of Engineers and farmers, gaggles of geese and flocks of ducks come to Arkansas, with out-of-state hunters and and their tourist dollars in hot pursuit.

An estimated one-in-six jobs in Arkansas is agriculture related. That’s about a quarter of a million agriculture-related jobs. It’s a livelihood, and it’s a way of life.

So when it comes time to craft and pass the 2014 farm bill, what’s not to like?

Well, you’ll have to ask Tom Cotton, the first-term congressman from Dardanelle. Cotton is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). Pryor’s voting for the farm bill, just like every congressman and senator in the state except Cotton.

He can’t be too bad a fella, his mom endorsed him in a TV ad, and she seems like good people and he seems to be the darling of billionaire coal and oil barons and their political action committees.

But tourism and agriculture are the lynchpins of Arkansas’ economy, and it just seems like good sense to support your neighbors and constituents.

Here’s part of what this farm bill does—it provides a safety net and a road map for farmers trying to navigate the rough waters of drought and hail, flood and insect pest, overproduction, and expensive seed and chemicals.

It provides money for small community water projects and food stamps for people who for any number of reasons can’t afford to feed their families.

It does all that while cutting $23 billion out of the budget over the next 10 years.

This comprehensive bill includes provisions that will benefit Arkansas’ agriculture industry—and its $17 billion of economic activity annually. It provides strong protections for southern farmers and continuation of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program. It makes the Livestock Disaster Assistance Program permanent and keeps the Rural Development Funding for waste water management to farmers and ranchers and has provisions in the bill to conserve land for hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors.

Arkansas was well served on this bill by congressmen Tim Griffin, Steve Womack and Rick Crawford, all Republicans, and senators John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Pryor, all of whom support this bipartisan bill at a time when opposing lawmakers in the nation’s capital can hardly agree on dinner.

We were particularly well represented by Crawford and Boozman, who served on the bill’s joint conference committee, bridging gaps and smoothing a hard, rough road until they came up with a bill any Arkansan could be proud of.

Well, almost any.

TOP STORY >> Preventing teen traffic fatalities

Leader staff writer

The Arkansas Department of Health recently held a teen drivers-safety class for parents and students at Cabot High School.

Arkansas had the second highest traffic-related death rate in the nation — 34 per 100,000 people aged 14 to 19 from 2000 to 2010, twice the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During that 10-year period, 908 Arkansans ages 14 to 19 died in crashes.

In 2010, more than 50 percent of fatal car crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and 6 a.m., with half of those happening between 3 and 6 p.m.

In that age group for 2011, there were two motor vehicle deaths and 40 serious injuries in Pulaski County. In Lonoke County, there was one death and 11 serious injuries.

“A teen’s brain is rapidly developing, especially the frontal lobe, which is responsible for your emotions and decision-making process. Teenagers are more likely to take risks, give in to peer pressure and overestimate their abilities — thinking at this speed they can make that turn — and intense mood swings,” Laura Taylor, ADH community health educator said.

For beginning drivers, the riskiest time for a crash is the first six months or the first 1,500 miles they drive after receiving a license.

After that, the risk drops by 66 percent. A 16-year-old driver is three times more likely to crash than a 17-year-old and five times greater than an 18-year-old. They are also two times more likely to wreck than an 85-year-old. Boys were most likely to get into a crash.

“It’s sad. You want to race or jump a hill,” Taylor said.

The class explained the different stages of graduated driver licensing.

A learner’s permit is for drivers ages 14 to 15. They must be with an adult 21 or older. They must wear a seat belt and cell phone use is prohibited except for an emergency.

An intermediate license for 16- to 17-year-olds says they cannot have more than one unrelated minor passenger, unless the driver has a passenger aged 21 or older. The law requires a licensed adult during night driving, except for driving to work, school or church. A teen cannot drive between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. It also prohibits cell phone use except in an emergency.

Texting or using a smart phone except for talking is prohibited for all ages. Using a cell phone while driving in a school zone or a construction work zone is against the law.

It was said in the class that, for teen drivers having only one teenage passenger, the risk of a crash increases by 40 percent. Usually that happens when driving to and from school and riding with male passengers.

The risk for a crash is four times higher when using a cell phone while driving. It can delay a driver’s reaction as much as having a .08 blood alcohol content.

The program encouraged parents to talk with their teenager about driving, set the rules for driving and create a safe-driving agreement contract.

Parent Michelle Mato said, “I found it interesting. I didn’t know anything about the graduated driver’s licensing. I thought it was a good program.”

Student Anthony Mato said, “I didn’t know the seat belt guidelines law.”

TOP STORY >> Essay winner goes to Washington

Leader staff writer

While you may have been on the couch Tuesday night cheering or jeering President Barack Obama as he gave his State of the Union address, Beebe High School senior Jessica Kloss was there, sitting in the balcony of the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol.

Kloss was the winner of Rep. Tim Griffin’s (R-Little Rock) State of the Union essay contest for students in his district. Griffin’s campaign covered airfare and a hotel for Kloss and for her father, David.

The Klosses decided to purchase another plane ticket so that her mother, Cindi, could also fly to Washington.

Jessica and her father attended the State of the Union address as Griffin’s guests. Each congressional office receives only one guest ticket, but the office of Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) offered its guest ticket to Griffin’s office.

“I spent quite a lot of time with Tim Griffin. It was really nice. His staff was awesome. They were really great,” Kloss said.

Kloss and her family arrived in Washington on Monday. Kloss said she met Griffin and took a tour of the Capitol. Later that evening, the Klosses visited the Lincoln Memorial.

On Tuesday after lunch, Griffin was able to introduce Kloss to one of her favorite senators, Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).

“It was great. I got to meet him in his office. He was really nice,” she said.

Kloss said, after the 20-minute meeting, he gave her a signed copy of his book.

She then went to the Smithsonian National Museum of Nature History, before getting ready for the big night.

At the State of the Union address, Kloss dressed in her Sunday best.

She met Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” there. But he was wearing jeans, Kloss said.

And “I met Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). He is nice. I got to say hi,” Kloss said.

She said the address started late and lasted a little over an hour.

“It was awesome. You get to see all the people below that you see on TV, that pass legislation that affects every person in the country. It was surreal,” Kloss said.

She said it was easy to tell to which party each of the legislators belonged.

The Democrats stood up and clapped at least 100 times and went crazy during Obama’s speech. The Republicans sat on their hands a lot. They stood up about three times, Kloss said.

She was not able to take any pictures because the organizers didn’t allow cell phones.

Kloss also said Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity was sitting two seats away from her.

“He is a big deal. I got his autograph,” she said.

Kloss said she was able to see a different side of Washington.

“I learned congressmen don’t have cushy lives, eat fancy foods and stay in the nicest places. Most sleep on an air mattress in their offices. They are away from their families, and they work really hard to do the best job they can,” Kloss said.

She said Washington isn’t as partisan as many people believe. She said legislators may criticize, but their comments are not personal attacks. Most are friends.

Before returning back home on Wednesday, Kloss and her family went to the National Archives where they saw The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights.

“They are in a dimly lit room. It is kind of intense because they are the founding documents our country is based on,” Kloss said.

The family also went to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Kloss’ trip to Washington increased her interest in government. “I care so much about the government. In today’s time, we are getting away from the principles of small government and personal freedom. That’s what this country was founded upon. I want to protect that,” Kloss said.

Griffin said after the visit, “Jesse is an extraordinary young woman with a very bright future. It was a pleasure meeting her and her father, David, taking them to the State of the Union address and showing them around our nation’s Capitol.”

After she graduates from Beebe High School, Kloss plans to attend the University of Arkansas and major in political science. She hopes to intern for someone’s campaign during the summer. Eventually, after graduating from college, Kloss would like to work up the ranks as a congressional staff member and then run for office.

Kloss is president of the Beebe High School’s Future Business Leaders of America.

TOP STORY >> Allen convicted on lesser charge

Leader staff writer

Several gasps of relief filled the courtroom as the man who killed Jacksonville Fire Capt. Donald (Donnie) Jones and seriously wounded two other first responders received the maximum sentence for lesser charges than prosecutors wanted him convicted of.

The sentence was handed down after wives of the three victims testified about how their lives will never be the same because of the 2012 crash. A defense attorney then read a statement written by the murderer’s mother, and a social worker told the jury that he had been compliant while committed to the State Hospital, where he has been since August 2012.

Bryce Allen Jr., 49, of Jacksonville could spend the next 70 years in prison – 30 for second-degree murder and 40 for two counts of attempt to commit murder in the second degree. He may be eligible for parole in 17 1/2 years for good behavior, but will return to the Arkansas State Hospital and a court-supervised release program if he ever leaves the hospital.

Allen was charged with first-degree murder, which carried a possible life sentence.

After three hours of deliberation, Pulaski County jurors agreed Allen knew what he was doing when he ran over Jones, firefighter Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo as they were working the scene of his mother’s accident at 8411 S. Hwy. 161 in March 2012. She hit a gas main but wasn’t injured.

The second-degree murder charge means he ran them over with “with extreme indifference to the value of human life” but didn’t intentionally kill Jones and injure the others, prosecutors said in their closing statements.

Jurors also rejected the defense attorneys’ claim that Allen, who has bipolar disorder with psychotic features, was having a manic episode during the murder and therefore not responsible for his actions. Judge Barry Sims, who presided over the three-day trial, ruled in July that Allen was mentally fit to stand trial.

Testimony from the victims’ wives did what the closing arguments and evidence did not. Their words caused four women on the jury to weep.

Allen did not visibly react during the trial. He paid attention but sometimes looked down at his lap.

The voice of Betty Jones, the captain’s widow, cracked on the stand and tears flowed while she told the room “nothing is the same anymore” and never will be.

Her husband, a father of five, was a 31-year-veteran of the department and the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Ashley Bowmaster, the other firefighter’s wife of 11 years, said they have a 9-year-old daughter. She wept during her testimony.

When the chief and a captain came to her door the night of the murder, Bowmaster said, “I kept thinking this has got to be a dream. This couldn’t be real.”

She remembered collapsing at the hospital when she saw an officer holding his bloody wedding band.

“My husband was covered in blood and dirt…I kissed him goodbye and told him to fight. I said, ‘If not for me, then for our daughter,’” Bowmaster continued.

But the horror continues for the family, she said. “He’s medically retired from the one job that he loved” and attends counseling weekly for severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jason Bowmaster can’t remember that night, or even the month of the murder. And that is tragic because “he wants to remember the last conversation he had with Donnie,” Ashley Bowmaster said.

Karen DiMatteo, the police officer’s wife and a police officer in her own right, said they have 10 children and have been married since 2011.

She explained that the two of them loved to run together, go hiking and do a lot of physical activities. Now they can’t do those things together because Daniel DiMatteo will have chronic pain for the rest of his life. That can’t be cured, according to nine doctors.

DiMatteo said, when she saw her husband in the hospital, his arm from elbow to wrist looked like it had gone through a “meat grinder.”

“It was the most difficult thing we’ve ever been through,” she said about taking care of Daniel DiMatteo as he was recovering.

Karen DiMatteo said her husband also suffers from severe PTSD and has lost the patience he had before the murder.

He punched a window while she was driving and another car cut them off.

Sometimes she wakes up at night when “his body jerks so violently” from nightmares.

Both survivors require future surgeries. Bowmaster suffers from a limp and a stutter caused by nerve damage.

The verdict brought relief to both men.

“I’m just very relieved that it’s over. It gives us some closure,” DiMatteo said. He was there through the whole trial, had Friday off and will be back to work today.

DiMatteo also took a moment to say thanks for all the support. “Not only from the police department, but from the fire department, the mayor, the entire city — everyone has been very supportive, caring and helpful during this time period.”

Fire Chief Alan Laughy said the violent incident caused suffering on both sides. “You can never really get complete closure, but justice has been served.”

He added, “As firefighters, you put your life on the line each day, but you don’t expect to be murdered.”

The fire chief thanked the prosecutors for being well prepared and presenting a solid case. He also thanked the jurors for their work.

Battalion chief David Jones — not related to the victim — spoke for the Bowmaster and Jones families. He said, “It has been an emotional roller coaster, but the families are pleased that the jury held Bryce Allen responsible for the tragic accident.

But, he said, you can never get complete closure. “We can’t get Capt. Jones back.”

Prosecutor Kim Davis also pleaded for the maximum sentence with the jury of six women and six men — 11 white and one black.

She said, “Bryce Allen has earned nothing but the maximum. He has taken things from good people that can never be brought back.”

The letter written by Allen’s 73-year-old mother, Thelma, and read by defense attorney Cheryl Barnard said Bryce Allen Jr. was remorseful and she was sympathetic toward the Jones’ family. But Thelma Allen asked, in the statement, that the jury be lenient and remember that her son has a severe mental illness.

The main evidence in the case against the killer was a video of the crash recording by the dash-cam on DiMatteo’s patrol car. The video was shown several times throughout the trial.

Jones’ widow and other members of the victims’ families left the courtroom after the impact was shown for the first time. Those who stayed gasped and wept openly.

DiMatteo’s scream, recorded by his body microphone, is deafening in the video.

He said on the stand Wednesday that he was screaming because it was “the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”

The first officer on the scene after the men were hit, Sgt. Robert Slash, testified that Allen was calm and didn’t have rapid speech — behavior inconsistent with someone experiencing a manic episode, prosecutors claimed.

Defense attorneys pointed out that he quickly became agitated when a police officer retrieved registration and insurance information from his crashed van. They also implied that he didn’t put his first name on a written statement because he was anxious.

They asked Slash if rubbernecking could cause drivers to swerve in the direction of where they are looking. He said it was possible.

Ryan White, a drug recognition expert, testified next. He said he saw no signs of impairment when he examined Allen through field tests that night.

But defense attorneys drew attention to the fact that White has not been trained to detect signs of mental illness. They also questioned the eyelid tremors, fast movements and increased internal clock noted in White’s report.

Sgt. Tim Carter, an accident reconstructionist for the Arkansas State Police, testified that Allen accelerated to 23.16 miles before hitting the men and braked after the impact.

There were no skid marks on the pavement, indicating he did not brake before striking them, he said. You can hear the van accelerating in the video and see the back bumper go down as weight is shifted there, Carter added. Defense attorneys questioned the fact that a full-blow reconstruction was not completed.

Dr. Frank J. Peretti with the state crime lab said Jones’ autopsy showed he died within seconds of being hit.

An Ohio police officer then testified about how Allen, driving a Cadillac, hit him with the car in October 2011. The officer was off duty and working as a security guard at a hospital in Ohio at the time. He sustained a minor injury when he was pinned between the car’s mirror and a stop sign.

The officer also said, echoing DiMatteo’s earlier testimony, he didn’t doubt Allen was trying to hit him because the car jumped a curve to strike him.

North Little Rock mechanic Freddie Zakrzewski, who has more than 40 years of experience, testified that there was nothing wrong with the 1999 Oldsmobile Silhouette Allen drove. Allen had claimed the accelerator became stuck after he used cruise control.

The mechanic said, on that model, the cruise control doesn’t activate until 25 mph — faster than the 23.16 mph Allen accelerated to.

The defense called on another psychologist to educate the jury on bipolar disorder. He said a manic episode must be at least a week, the person must have four signs of being manic and those signs are less obvious when the person is starting or coming out of an episode.

Defense attorneys claimed his mother calling him to pick her up from the first accident triggered Allen’s episode. She had hit a gas main but wasn’t injured.

Dr. Michael Simon with the State Hospital said Allen’s description of the day before the crash, the murder and his behavior for weeks afterward showed no evidence that he was experiencing a manic episode.

Allen’s mother testified that she prayed for her life to be spared when she swerved to miss a car parked on the road and ploughed into the gas main.

Dr. John Fabian testified that Allen had no rational motive for the murder; his behavior was disorganized, impulsive and reckless. He said Allen was in a manic episode, albeit not a serious one with psychotic elements, when he hit the three men.

Prosecutors pointed out that his report with those claims was written two weeks ago, he was being paid $8,700 for his testimony and the report is riddled with the words “maybe” “probably” and “likely.”

They asked him to identify three behaviors required to show Allen was having a manic episode, and he did not.

Closing arguments followed Fabian’s testimony.

Prosecutors called the murder a “senseless, malicious act.” They argued Allen stayed on the scene because he had the excuse of his accelerator getting stuck.

“The record is simply void of any criteria” for a manic episode, Davis said.

Referring to distraction tactics used by the defense, she told the jury, “Don’t fall for it.”

Of bipolar disorder, she said, “It is not a crutch. It is not a get out of jail free card.”

Defense lawyer Barnard said what happened that night changed four families forever.

She asked the jury that if Allen wasn’t manic, why didn’t he kill the two officers he struck at the scene and why he cooperated with police afterward.

Barnard said an eyewitness, Ronnie Brown, claimed Allen was pacing — one indicator of a manic episode. She reiterated the eyelid tremors, fast movements, increase in his internal clock and increased heart rate.

She also used a glass and bottle with flashing lights to show how Allen, affected by his bipolar disorder, may have seen the accident scene as he approached it.

“It’s not the same reality that everybody sees,” Barnard said.

Martin said it was unbelievable to compare Allen with the victims as if he were a victim too. “They did everything right and the defendant did everything wrong,” she told the jury.

Defense attorneys assured the jury that Allen, if released from the State Hospital, would be enrolled in a court-supervised program. That could still happen if he is eventually paroled. But prosecutors said Allen was in that same program when he killed Jones.

He was enrolled in the program when he was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect in the 2009 second-degree battery of a police officer.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Rabbits out quick, beat ’Birds

Leader sportswriter

A 10-1 start gave the Lady Jackrabbits an early cushion in their 4A-2 Conference matchup with Stuttgart, and the host team never looked back from there as they beat the Lady Ricebirds 62-43 Tuesday at the Gina Cox Center at Lonoke High School.

Lonoke led 17-5 at the end of the first quarter and pushed its lead to 29-13 late in the second, but Stuttgart finished the quarter with a 6-0 run that cut the margin to 29-19 at halftime.

“Tonight I think we rebounded a little better,” said Lonoke coach Nathan Morris. “We’re still not there, but we moved the basketball better. I think we distributed it a lot better tonight. I was real proud of our effort on moving the basketball.

“I thought against their zone we did a pretty good job of that. And then finding an open look inside, and then the open look found us outside, too. I thought our inside-out basketball game was pretty good.”

Stuttgart (9-8, 4-6) opened the second half with a 4-0 run that cut the Lady Rabbits’ lead to six with the score 29-23, but Lonoke (15-6, 7-2) answered with five-straight points to push its lead back to double digits near the midway point of the third period.

The Lady Ricebirds, however, managed to trim the deficit back to single digits by the end of the quarter, but just barely, as Lonoke took a 39-30 lead into the fourth quarter.

Lonoke got its lead back to double digits with a free throw by Jarrelyn McCall with 7:45 to play in the fourth period. Just more than two minutes later, the Lady Rabbits went up 15 on a pair of free throws by Callie Whitfield.

Whitfield’s free throws came with 5:35 remaining, and on Stuttgart’s ensuing possession, McCall got a steal near half court.

McCall threw the ball up court to Whitfield, who then dished to a wide-open Amanda Sexton underneath the basket for an easy layup that made the score 50-33 Lonoke.

Lonoke pushed its lead to 19 three times in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, the last of which came on a free throw by sophomore Ashlyn Allen with 31.8 seconds to play, which set the final score.

Stuttgart narrowly outrebounded Lonoke 29-28, and made five three-pointers on 15 attempts compared to the host team’s 2 for 11 showing from three-point range. But those were the only areas, statistically, where the Lady Ricebirds came out on top.

Lonoke finished the game with 10 fewer turnovers than Stuttgart’s total of 19, and the host team committed just three turnovers in the second half. The Lady Rabbits made 24 of 54 shots from the floor for 44 percent, bettering Stuttgart’s 18 of 56 from the field for 32 percent.

The Lady Rabbits made 75 percent of their free throws on 12 of 16 shooting. Stuttgart was just 2 for 6 from the line for 33 percent.

Lonoke junior post Eboni Willis led all scorers with 18 points.

Sexton and McCall each scored 14. Sexton also had 11 rebounds, giving her a double-double. Whitfield finished with nine points.

For Stuttgart, Jayda Williams, Shacara Humbert and Tiffany Gipson scored nine points apiece to lead the Lady Ricebirds.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers dominate ’Jackets after half

Special to The Leader

The Beebe Badgers (5-10, 3-3) hosted the Wynne Yellowjackets (4-13, 1-5) Tuesday night and came away with the 67-46 victory. It was only a three-point Badger lead at the half, but Beebe outscored the visitors 44-26 in the second half for the 5A-East Conference win.

“I thought in the first half their No. 5 Marrs hit a lot of tough shots,” said Beebe coach Ryan Marshall. “We tried to push the lead early and he hit some tough shots. I thought the second half we did a good job of attacking in our transition a little bit better. We really did a good job on the defensive boards, not allowing those second-chance shots. They took a lot of long threes, but we did a better job of making sure they didn’t get a second. We’ve got to get better at the free-throw line. Overall, we did a really good job of taking care of the ball. I think a big part was that we didn’t give them easy baskets.”

The Yellowjackets scored three baskets before the Badgers got on the board in the first quarter. Zach Baker scored first, then Tanner Chapman hit a pair of free throws and Tyler Childress hit a three with less than five seconds to go and Beebe had scored seven to go ahead 7-6 at the end of a quarter.

Childress sank a three-point basket to start the Badger scoring in the second quarter.

Baker had a two-point basket, and then a two-pointer plus one free throw to up the lead to 15-6 before Wynne scored again.

Childress had two more three-pointers and Baker a dunk for a 23-17 advantage before Wynne’s Ramantoe Marrs hit his second three of the quarter to close the score to 23-20 at the half.

Kendrick Clark scored a traditional three-point play for the Yellowjackets to knot the score at 23 to start the third quarter. The Badgers led 29-27, and then maintained the lead for an advantage of 45-32 at the end of the third quarter. Chapman led the way in the quarter with 12 points.

Beebe scored six two-point baskets and 10 of 14 free throws to outscore Wynne 22-14 in the final quarter and secure the win at 67-46. One of the two-point baskets was scored by Chapman on the execution of a sideline out-of-bounds play, and one was a dunk by Baker.

Chapman led all scorers with 21 points. Other scorers for the Badgers were Childress with 17 points, including five three-pointers, and Baker with 16 points.
Marrs led Wynne with 16 points, and Walton Chandler added 15.

Beebe shot 57 percent from the field and was 17 for 26 from the free-throw line. Wynne was 40 percent from the field and 7 of 11 at the stripe.

SPORTS STORY >> Defense propels Lady Panthers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers stopped a three-game losing streak and got their first conference road win on Tuesday, beating Jonesboro 54-44 in the Don Riggs Hurricane Gym. Strong defense led to a late Cabot lead, and solid free-throw shooting preserved the win for the Lady Panthers.

“We played pretty good defense,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder. “We were really aggressive, but we didn’t foul. We blocked out well. It was a lot better effort. The girls really played well.”

Cabot (11-9, 2-4) jumped out to a 15-7 lead in the first quarter, but struggled offensively in the second period. The Lady Hurricane held the Lady Panthers to just four points in the second quarter and pulled to within 19-15 by halftime.

The margin stayed between four and six for the first few minutes of the third period. Cabot finally got the offense going again and pulled out to a 34-25 lead on a free throw by junior guard Danielle McWilliams with less than a minute left in the frame. But Jonesboro came back to score the next five points, two to end the third and a three pointer by Morgan Malugen to start the fourth to make it 34-30.

The Lady Panthers re-grouped and built a 40-33 lead when Anna Sullivan sank two free throws halfway through the fourth quarter. The home team still had one run left in it. Jonesboro’s Martina Day answered Sullivan’s free throws with a bucket underneath. Cabot then turned the ball over.

Malugen missed a three pointer, but Daneeta Webb got an offensive rebound and put it back to make it 40-37 and force a Cabot timeout.

After the break, Sullivan scored the first two of six in a row for Cabot. After her basket, Sullivan got a steal and was fouled. She made both free throws for a seven-point Cabot lead.

Leighton Taylor then rebounded a Jonesboro miss and McWilliams scored at the other end to force a Jonesboro timeout and change of strategy.

The Lady Hurricane (5-12, 0-6) were forced into the foul game, and Rachel Allgood and Taylor combined to hit their last six free throws in a row to secure the win.

Cabot made 20 of 24 free throws in the game. Sullivan led the Lady Panthers with 23 points and was 7 for 7 from the line. The sophomore forward also had eight rebounds.

“She’s just figuring stuff out,” Crowder said of Sullivan. “It’s kind of a new role for her and she’s worked really hard on her shot. She’s worked hard in practice and on her own, and she’s doing well.”

Junior CoCo Calhoon added 12 points for the Lady Panthers and post player Alyssa Hamilton finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.

SPORTS STOORY >> Jacksonville’s pressure halts SH’s fast start

Leader sports editor

A roster depleted Lady Bear basketball team played above their heads early, but couldn’t keep up with a surging Lady Red Devil team on Tuesday. The end result was first-place Jacksonville beating last-place Sylvan Hills 77-44 in Sherwood.

The missing Sylvan Hills players, which on Tuesday included three full-time starters, brought the roster down to six varsity players, forcing Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis to bring up two freshmen to add some depth, which is especially important against a team that likes to push the tempo as Jacksonville does.

Sylvan Hills sophomore Sarah Beckwith drained two three pointers in the first minute of the game to give the Lady Bears a brief lead. Jacksonville’s Tiffany Smith answered in kind and the game stayed close for a little more than half the high-scoring first quarter.

Jacksonville led 15-13 with about three minutes remaining in the period when they began a 13-0 run that put the first separation between the two teams.

Smith added two more three pointers to finish the quarter with 12 points. Post player Markela Bryles also became difficult for the size-depleted Lady Bears, whose two tallest players on an already-undersized roster were among those out for the game, to stop. She finished the first quarter with 10 points.

But sophomore guard Ashton Neasley closed the gap some when she hit a 35-footer at the buzzer to make it 28-16.

Beckwith then opened the second quarter with another three pointer. Lady Bear Maddison Shelton then forced Jacksonville’s first turnover of the game. On the next possession, she added a free throw to make it 28-20 with six minutes left in the half.

Jacksonville then switched to full-court pressure and things came unraveled for the Lady Bears. The Lady Red Devils didn’t score in the period until the 5:37 mark, but finished the half on a 25-3 run.

Jacksonville senior Keke Alcorn drained two threes while fellow senior Sacha Richardson added another. Bryles dropped in six more points while Antrice McCoy and Jerrica Hardaway scored two apiece. Shelton scored Sylvan Hills’ only basket after Beckwith’s opening three and the Lady Red Devils led 53-23 at intermission.

But the fight wasn’t gone from Sylvan Hills. The Lady Bears scrapped hard and won the third quarter 16-15, staving off the mercy rule for a few more minutes.

Jacksonville coach William Rountree pulled all his starters and primary subs in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville sophomore Asia Williams hit two free throws with 5:05 remaining to make it 72-41 and invoke the continuous clock.

“The third quarter was too sloppy, but I thought overall we played a pretty good game,” said Rountree. “We were productive inside and outside. We scored off of pressure and in our sets, and all my young players got to play, and I thought did pretty well. We won the fourth quarter with no starters out there, so I’m pleased with how they played.”

Jacksonville (9-8, 6-1) won the rebounding battle 31-21, and because of a 31-10 differential in turnovers, took 29 more shots than did Sylvan Hills. The Lady Devils made 24 of 69 shot attempts, including 8 of 19 from three-point range, while Sylvan Hills went 14 of 40 – 7 of 14 from three-point range.

Jacksonville made 21 of 32 free throws while Sylvan Hills went 9 of 17.

Smith led all scorers with 20 points while Bryles added 16 and Alcorn 14 for Jacksonville. Eleven Lady Red Devils recorded points.

Shelton led the Lady Bears with 14 points. Beckwith added nine, as did freshman Storm Ellis.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils repel Bears’ rally

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils completed the first round robin on 5A-Central Conference play unscathed on Tuesday, beating Sylvan Hills 74-61 in Sherwood, and maintaining a two-game lead in the conference standings.

Jacksonville (17-3, 7-0) still did not play well enough to impress coach Vic Joyner, who, with two state championship, three state final appearances and five semifinal berths, has come to expect a high level of play.

“I know what elite-level basketball looks like, and we’re not there right now,” said Joyner. “We’ve got to get better or this is not a championship team.”

Particularly frustrating to Joyner was what he perceived as his team’s loss of focus and energy in the third quarter. The Red Devils took a 40-26 lead into halftime, but the Bears stormed back to pull to within 55-49 with 1:45 left in the third quarter on a Ronnie Hinton three pointer – his third of the quarter.

“Again we stopped closing out on the shooters in the second half like we did in the first half,” Joyner said. “We stopped running our sets on offense. We’re out of position on defense, and let their big man dribble from the top of the key, all the way down the lane and dunk on us – nobody rotating over. It’s not championship-level basketball. It’s as simple as that.”

One player that drew praise from Joyner was reserve post player Reggie Barnes. He was the fifth man off the bench of the 11 Red Devils that played, and finished with six points and eight rebounds.

“Reggie goes hard all the time in every practice,” Joyner said. “I need more kids on my team like Reggie. Other kids will be loafing around, pouting or whatever in practice, Reggie’s going hard.”

Joyner then called Barnes over.

“What did I tell you yesterday about how hard you work in practice?” Joyner asked the 6-foot-3 Barnes.

“That it would pay off,” Barnes answered.

“And did it pay off tonight?” Joyner inquired.

“Yes sir,” answered Barnes.

“You’ll notice he played almost the whole second half because he proved in practice I could count on him to give 100 percent when he’s out there - even if it’s just for a couple of minutes,” Joyner said.

Barnes’ play also didn’t go unnoticed by Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis.

“I thought the kid that came off the bench, No. 21 (Barnes) got some offensive rebounds and little stickbacks that really hurt us,” Davis said. “He got a couple there when we were starting to come back where he just out-worked us and got into position when we didn’t. They’re hard to rebound against because of their length and athleticism, but we could’ve done a lot better than we did on the boards. That’s something that we’ve struggled with all year. And when you’re playing a team that’s athletic and longer than you are, and they crash the boards hard like Jacksonville does, it can get ugly if you’re not doing it as well.”

Jacksonville outrebounded Sylvan Hills 37-17. Center Kanaan Jackson recorded his eighth double double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Sylvan Hills center David Johnson opened the fourth quarter with the dunk that Joyner referenced. Johnson threw the dunk down with authority as three Red Devils stood under the goal, causing the home crowd to erupt to its loudest of the night. Johnson’s bucket made it 61-53 with 7:46 left in the game. The Bears closed it to 62-58 with 5:37 left when Johnson hit one of two free throws, and Bears’ guard Nate Burchett was fouled while battling to rebound the miss. He hit both free throws to make it a four-point game, but the Bears could get no closer.

The two teams traded turnovers on four-straight possessions. Jacksonville’s Damarion Freeman then blocked shots on two-consecutive Sylvan Hills possessions. The offensive drought by the Bears allowed the Red Devils to slowly push the lead back to 10 on a bucket by Devin Campbell with 3:25 remaining.

Campbell led all scorers with 22 points. Freshman Tyree Appleby added nine for Jacksonville.

Cordy Winston led the Bears with 16 points while Aumonie Armond scored 12 and Hinton and Burchett added 10 apiece.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Firing range on the mark

More than 2,000 people turned out for the opening of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex in Jacksonville on Saturday. About 700 more people dropped in the next day.

The $3.2 million, 160-acre facility on Graham Road looks like a state park and is a welcome addition to the city’s public facilities. It is a major project that will help raise the city’s profile.

The opening came on the last weekend of duck-hunting season, when many trap and skeet shooters were pursuing different targets. But city officials are planning a grand-opening ceremony in March, which the governor is expected to attend, just as the competitive shooting season will be gearing up. That will give officials time to put some final touches on the place and get accustomed to daily operations there.

After months of delays caused by budget problems and construction setbacks, perhaps no one is more pleased than Mayor Gary Fletcher. “I told somebody today when I drove up, I said, ‘The two great sounds of Jacksonville to me right now are C-130s flying overhead and the sounds of shotguns going off on the range,’” he told us on opening day during a visit there.

The facility is still looking for a full-time manager, and we trust the city will choose someone who is knowledgable and passionate about teaching the sport to newcomers and old pros alike.

The firing range will host the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program tournaments that city officials expect will inject more than $4 million into the economy annually. At that rate, the facility could quickly pay for itself with tax revenue by attracting customers to local restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville) successfully convinced the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation — a nonprofit division of the Game and Fish Commission that promotes hunting, fishing and the outdoors — to contribute $2 million for the project with the city paying the rest. Jim Peacock and Mike Wilson sold the land to the city at a substantial discount.

Perry also helped form Jacksonville High School’s shooting team. And coaches like Jerry Hill and Mary Murtishaw have been just as active in turning Cabot into one of the state’s largest youth shooting programs.

On Saturday, hundreds of young shooters — many from Cabot — came out to inaugurate the range. They will be among the thousands who compete there in the spring and summer.

Cabot has nearly 70 junior high and high school students in its shooting program, whose teams have recently won state competitions, as have teams from Beebe and Carlisle.

Jacksonville High’s shooting team is growing, and North Pulaski High School recently started shooting and archery programs, and Lonoke has also been involved in the sport for some time. Combined, these students form a sizeable and instant customer base that will immediately make the new facility a worthwhile endeavor.

Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program director Chuck Woodson has also been at the forefront of the project, gathering input and insight from youth shooting coaches and volunteers, who, he said, are excited about the centrally-located public facility.

That side of town has seldom received such a substantial investment. It comes just as the widening of Graham Road to four lanes has been completed. City officials are pleased with the timing of the projects’ completion, which will improve traffic and the look of the area.

Unfortunately, Google Maps recommends drivers take Loop Road when traveling from Little Rock or Cabot, a route that bypasses the widening of Graham Road on the opposite side of Loop from the shooting complex. That’s too bad if many drivers won’t take Main Street through downtown. But the fresh yellow stripes on the new black top are a welcome improvement for thousands of motorists who’ll use Graham Road.

So here’s a 21-gun salute to a project that has finally opened to enthusiastic reviews.

TOP STORY >> Cabot chamber grew in ’13

Leader staff writer

It was an epiphany while playing Pong on a Friday night in college and a bit of a practical joke, but it has turned into a movement of compassion and genuine love, according to Jon Talbert, guest speaker at the annual Cabot Chamber of commerce dinner.

Talbert, a faith-based motivational speaker, comedian and NFL and NBA chaplain, told the crowd of about 300 at the chamber’s 53rd annual dinner Friday night that “genuine love is contagious” and his organization Beautiful Day was an example of that — an example of what can happen in Cabot too.

The chamber also honored its member of the year, Damon Bivins, business member of the year, Hertzog Family Eye Clinic, and outgoing board president Karen Madding. All were honored at the event and the gavel was officially passed to the new president, Mark Stocks.

Talbert told the crowd that when he first got the invitation to speak at the dinner he was ecstatic. “I’m going to Cabo, I told my wife. She said no, Cabot. I said Cabo, she said Cabot, there’s a T in it. I told her Cabo, the T was silent,” he quipped, adding that he was truly happy to visit Cabot, with a T.

Talbert told the crowd that he grew up in a Christian home where his dad was a Baptist minister. “We went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and Friday evenings. I once asked my dad if we could just put our beds there,” he said.

Growing up Talbert struggled with all the “do not’s.”

“We had what was called the Nine Nasties: No smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no chewing, no cruising, no movies, no dancing, no card playing and not to hang around girls that did any of those.”

He aid the no chewing confused him when he was young, but just to be on the safe side, he swallowed all his food. Talbert also said the no card playing rule bothered him too. “Dogs play cards. I know they did. I saw the pictures,” he quipped.

But all those no’s caused him to walk away from his faith. “It needs to be less about what not to do and more about what empowers us to do,” he explained.

He reconnected that fateful night in college. “I wanted to do something radically different.”

Talbert had seen the local church helping single moms, a group he called “lost women” who didn’t have food for their children and sometimes no money for utilities. “The church did all it could,” he said.

The idea hit him one night playing video games. “Pong, so you had a lot of time to think between hits,” he said.

He got the home addresses of the women from his church and he and his buddies pooled all their college money. “All right, all the money our parents gave us for college,” Talbert confessed. The group went out to a local Costco and bought bulk food. “We separated it and then delivered it to the front doors. He set down the bags and boxes and drove off fast. We got back to the dorm, called these families and said, ‘This is God, there’s food on your porch,’ and hung up.”

“We felt good,” he said, and from that grew Beautiful Day -- a growing group of government agencies, community organizations and people from all walks of life serving others by addressing all sorts of needs. Their approach is simple: To invest in communities with simple, direct and unyielding kindness.

“Each project is an act of no-strings-attached service for those who are otherwise unable to help themselves. Our goal is to aggressively spread compassion, to discard apathy in favor of activity and light fires of good will in the neighborhoods we work and live in,” he explained.

As an example he told the chamber crowd of a time he and his small group went to a local high school and asked what they could fix, clean, build. The principal said the best thing they could do was to attend a football game. “You see the school’s team was bad, really bad and the principal said barely 100 people would show up for a game,” Talbert explained.

He and his group put out the word. “It was like a flash mob at the game. We had 2,000 people filling the stands cheering for this team even though we didn’t know any of them. And guess what? The principal was right, the team was awful and lost. But they played before a crowd that cheered and loved them and that made them feel like winners.”

Talbert said he has learned three things about the genuine love that comes out of compassion and caring.

First, genuine love is contagious, virally contagious. “Once you start helping and showing genuine love, others join in,” he said.

Secondly, genuine love disrupts the status quo and, according to Talbert that’s a good thing. It lets people know there is something better out there.

Thirdly, genuine love is deeply spiritual. Talbert related a project that his group was doing rehabbing a house. “One of the last things we wanted to do was to paint the outside so it would look and feel new inside and out, but our painting crew didn’t show. We didn’t know what to do and I asked for an act of God to get the house finished.
Talbert said his prayers were answered when he approached a three-man painting crew down the street. Their reply, “We were hoping you’d ask us to help.”

And their names, Talbert said, “And I’m not kidding, Moses, Israel and Jesus—okay the last one had a Hispanic pronunciation.”

He ended by telling the Cabot crowd, “May you live in the practice of genuine love.”

Bivins was honored for his chamber support and volunteerism. He serves as the car line captain at Cabot Middle School North welcoming students as they arrive with fist bumps, kind words, and even a little dancing.

Bivins said, “I get way more out of it seeing the kids smile than they ever do. I don’t know what possesses some of the stuff I say and do but the kids get real happy and they smile as they walk in the building and that’s the most important thing.”

Madding, the outgoing president told the crowd that 2013 was a good year for the chamber with 26 ribbon cuttings and membership growing from 323 members to 370.

TOP STORY >> Two murders in Lonoke County

Leader staff writer

Two men accused of murdering the women in their lives appeared in circuit court in Lonoke on the same day last week, thankfully, an unusual occurrence.

Charlie Bryant, 38, could be described as a pillar of the community, a businessman who volunteered as a deputy for the Lonoke County sheriff. He was a family man with four children and a two-story brick home in Austin that was decorated for Christmas on the morning of Dec. 19 when he was caught on a surveillance camera shooting Sharae Bryant in the head.

Dennis Harrington, who turned 43 just days before his court appearance, is a convicted felon who was out of prison on parole when Rebecca Lauer, his live-in girlfriend, disappeared on July 21.

Harrington is known for abusing women, including his own mother.

If the witnesses who eventually came forward are to be trusted, Lauer had already been dead a week by the time she was reported missing. One claims to have seen her body in the back seat of her boyfriend’s pickup and one confessed to helping him pull her from the pickup and put her on a pile of burning tires.

Two men from different worlds and yet they are both accused of crimes almost too savage to comprehend. That shouldn’t be surprising. It’s been known for years that domestic violence crosses all socio-economic boundaries.

But to read scholarly articles with statistics that say men and women both kill their partners is not the same as reading the affidavits that spell out the evidence against them. The former is mind-boggling, but the detail contained in the latter is the stuff of nightmares.

Charlie Bryant said he shot his wife in self defense. She shot him and he shot back. But he was caught on tape chasing his wife as she ran from their home and around the SUV she had put their little girl into just minutes before.

When he caught up with her, he stood over her and shot her in the head, walked away a few feet and shot himself. Then Bryant crawled back to her and put something beside her. The gun he said she shot him with?

The affidavit doesn’t say but implies that it was. Then, he crawled back to the spot where he shot himself, the spot where he was found when the police and ambulances arrived.

Harrington told investigators that Lauer had simply left his home while he was away and didn’t come back. She left him a note: “I love you DH, Booboo, My Goober…Yours completely, your sweetheart.”

But a witness, perhaps the last person to see her alive, said Harrington brought Lauer to his home that day, beaten and handcuffed, and demanded twice that he have sex with her. The witness said he declined but warned Harrington that he could go back to prison for his treatment of Lauer.

The witness said he told Harrington he wouldn’t turn him in and in fact, he didn’t come forward until Aug. 5, 16 days after Lauer stood in his home bruised, cuffed and with her pants down while Harrington said he would take her to someone who would have sex with her.

The evidence against Bryant is video footage. The evidence against Harrington is a statement by Steven Boulanger, who said he helped Harrington build a fire of old tires and put Lauer’s body on it. That statement is backed up by two bone fragments identified only as belonging to a person with a small frame. The bones were too burned to use for DNA.

Facebook photographs of the Bryants show a smiling, handsome couple, while a photograph of Lauer, released by the sheriff’s department when she was reported missing was of a woman with a sad face and dark circles under her eyes.

Sharae, 34, was seemingly living the American dream while Rebecca, 35, was reportedly connected to her accused killer at least in part by drugs. But if their lives were different, they are surely connected by their deaths that came violently and 50 years too soon.

TOP STORY >> Trial testimony starts

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville police officer Daniel DiMatteo testified on Tuesday that he heard a van accelerate and saw defendant Bryce Allen Jr.’s “mean scowl” less than a second before the Jacksonville man ran over him and two firefighters at a March 2012 accident scene on Hwy. 161 South.

One of those firefighters, Capt. Donald (Donnie) Jones, was thrown under the van and died instantly, senior deputy prosecuting attorney Melanie Martin said during her opening statement on the first day of the 48-year-old Jacksonville man’s trial. Allen is charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

He has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The trial is set to run through Thursday.

The jury is expected to watch a video recording and hear audio of the accident in Pulaski County Court today.

Attorney Haylie Lott with the defense team said in her opening statement Allen would take it all back if he could.

She said, “We have the tragedy of this terrible accident and also the tragedy of Bryce Allen’s life,” which was plagued by bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies. He had no motive because he didn’t know the victims, and he never left the scene of the accident — not the typical action of a murderer, who would want to avoid detection — Lott argued.

Jones was a 31-year-veteran of the department and the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

The other firefighter, Jason Bowmaster, was more seriously injured than DiMatteo. Bowmaster also testified on Tuesday.

But Bowmaster, who has wanted to be a firefighter since age 14, when his dad became a volunteer firefighter, doesn’t remember that night. He said spending time with his daughter in January 2012 or February 2012 was his last memory before the accident.

In addition to a punctured lung, a broken pelvis, a broken clavicle and several other broken bones, the ordeal left the firefighter with nerve damage in his neck. Now he stutters and has a slight limp.

DiMatteo patted Bowmaster on the back as they traded places on the witness stand.

About Allen’s “angry” expression, DiMatteo told the jury, “I will remember it all the days of my life…There is no doubt in my mind that it was done on purpose.”

In his experience, DiMatteo said, people who cause accidents are immediately remorseful and offer to help. Allen seemed angry after the accident and didn’t offer to help, the officer testified.

At first, DiMatteo said, he thought Allen was just an impatient driver bypassing the traffic stop that had been set up and the emergency vehicles on the side of the road.

Then DiMatteo said he saw the van turn toward where he and the firefighters were. Hearing the accelerator caught his attention. He turned around.

The sound saved his life, DiMatteo said, because he was able to jump to the side.

The officer tried to warn the firefighters, but there wasn’t enough time to finish shouting, “watch out.”

DiMatteo expressed regret at not jumping in the other direction to push Jones and Bowmaster out of harm’s way.

He saw Jones being struck out of the corner of his eye.

DiMatteo told the jury, “I’d never known terror until that point. Nothing could prepare you for that.”

The officer, lying on the ground after being hit, saw Allen get out of the van and walk toward him.

DiMatteo said, “I was in fear for my life.” He reached for his gun.

But the hand that was close enough to grasp the weapon was degloved, meaning skin was pulled back from muscle and bone.

Allen mumbled something inaudible and continued walking, DiMatteo said.

The officer remembered clutching pepper spray with his other hand until he was finally taken to UAMS by ambulance.

He was with a doctor an hour and 20 minutes after the accident.

In addition to the degloving, DiMatteo’s left knee, right lower leg and foot were broken. He had a laceration on the back of his head and was later diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

But he is back on duty, and DiMatteo said he wouldn’t let Allen’s actions keep him from following his lifelong dream of serving as a police officer.

A third man who was at the scene that night also testified on Tuesday.

Ronnie Brown, described as a good Samaritan by the prosecuting attorney, witnessed the accident the three men were responding to before they were struck by Allen’s van.

Allen’s mother, Thelma, had swerved to avoid a parked car in the middle of the road. That driver fled the scene before the first responders arrived.

Lott, with the defense, said Allen’s mother’s accident triggered the defendant’s manic episode.

Thelma Allen drove her Trailblazer into a ditch and struck a gas main but wasn’t injured. She called her son, asking him to pick her up from the scene at 8411 S. Hwy. 161.

DiMatteo said Brown and Thelma Allen were a couple hundred feet away because the gas main was leaking and he was concerned for everyone’s safety.

“You could hear the gas storming out of there. You could taste it,” the officer testified.

The gas company repaired the main later.

Brown and Thelma Allen were writing statements about the first accident at Brown’s truck, which was parked across the street, when the good Samaritan heard the van crash.

He ran to DiMatteo and followed the officer’s instructions to stop traffic. Brown also checked on the firefighters, finding Jones with no pulse Bowmaster moaning but unresponsive.

DiMatteo called Brown “my arms, my legs and my hand.”

About Allen, who was pacing back and forth, Brown testified, “He gave me the heebie-jeebies a little bit…I thought it was strange he wasn’t rendering assistance.” Allen also put a tool bag in his truck, Brown said.

Martin argued in her opening statement that Allen made no attempt to brake and accelerated before he hit the men in uniform.

She said the defendant blamed a mechanical error, but no error or recall was found for the van he drove.

The first responders were wearing reflective vests. The emergency lights and headlights of their vehicles were on too, Martin said.

Judge Barry Sims, who ruled in July that Allen is mentally fit to stand trial, is presiding over the trial.

The accused has a criminal history and a history of mental illness.

Allen was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hallucinations and delusions that included paranoia involving the Ku Klux Klan.

He was arrested in 2009 for second-degree battery of a police officer and terroristic threatening. According to court records, Allen was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect.

The former Army corporal told the psychologist who examined him in 2010 that he had been hospitalized eight times, mostly at Fort Roots Veterans Hospital in North Little Rock.

Allen has also been accused of hitting an Ohio police officer with his car in October 2011.

The guard, who sustained a minor injury, was an off-duty police officer.

TOP STORY >> Red Devils hold off PA comeback

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils withstood a steady salvo of three pointers raining down inside the Devils’ Den Friday night, holding back a charging brood of Bruins and beating Pulaski Academy 66-64 to take a two-game lead in the 5A-Central standings.

Jacksonville couldn’t get the lid off the basket in the early going, missing their first 10 shot attempts and failing to score a field goal for more than half the opening frame. The Red Devil defense kept it close until the offense came along. Tedrick Wolfe finally scored on a short turnaround jumper with 3:45 on the clock to make it 7-5.

The Bruins took a 17-14 lead into the second frame, and Jacksonville began to dominate. After the lead grew to 24-18, the Red Devils closed the half with a 19-3 run to take a 37-27 lead into intermission. Jacksonville gave up only one basket over the final 6:13 of the second quarter and the offense scored on the inside and outside. Sergio Berkley hit two three pointers and scored eight points, while post players Wolfe and Kanaan Jackson scored four points each.

Jacksonville threatened to run away in the third quarter, starting the period with an 8-2 run and taking a 45-29 lead on another Berkley three pointer with 5:50 on the clock.

Bruin coach Roger Franks called timeout. After the break, the Bruins’ strategy for coming back was clear – launch from deep.

And it almost worked. The Bruins scored eight-straight points in only 1:25 out of the timeout. Jacksonville slowed the onslaught, but PA still closed to within 50-45 by the end of the third quarter.

Jacksonville maintained that five-point lead and tried to slow the game down and run the clock with about five minutes left in the game. But Lawson Korita picked off a lazy pass at the top of the key and dunked it at the other end to make it 55-52 with 4:45 remaining.

Berkley scored at the other end for Jacksonville, and Korita hit his second three pointer of the quarter to make it 57-55 with 3:55 left. Berkley wasted no time scoring again with 3:40 on the clock to make it 59-55, and both teams hit a wall offensively for the next couple of minutes.

Jacksonville’s Damarion Freeman blocked a Korita three-point attempt and Jackson got the rebound.

Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner called timeout, but the Red Devils failed to score on the possession. Freeman then blocked Korita again and got the rebound. But again Jacksonville failed to score.

In a serious case of deja vu, Freeman blocked another Korita shot, this one he sent out of bounds along the Bruin bench. But the inbound pass went to Korita far behind the three-point line. The super sophomore launched it from about 25 feet and drained it, making the score 59-58 with 2:04 left in the game.

Devin Campbell scored for Jacksonville at the other end and Franks called his last timeout with 1:28 remaining. Jacksonville got a stop when Marcus Wallace missed and Campbell got the rebound.

Berkley hit 1 of 2 free throws on the ensuing possession. Jacksonville fouled PA leading by four, and Bruin guard Chase Snider missed the front end of a one-and-one. Jackson missed a dunk at the other end, and Wallace got the long rebound on a runout. He hit a layup and was fouled. He added the free throw to make it 62-61 with 25 seconds left.

From that point, Jacksonville needed to make free throws and did so. Sophomore LaQuawn Smith calmly hit both ends of a one-and-one with 19 seconds remaining.

Wallace missed a long three at the other end, but Bruin post player Zack Fryxell got a rare offensive rebound for PA and was fouled. But he also missed the front end of a one-and-one and Wolfe got the rebound. Wolfe hit both of his foul shots with six seconds left, and Korita added a three pointer at the buzzer to set the final margin.

Joyner had a simple explanation for Pulaski Academy’s comeback.

“We got lazy and we didn’t close out on the shooters like we did in the first half,” said Joyner. “They’re going to take their shots. But in the first half we were closing out and getting a hand in their face and making it difficult. In the second half, we weren’t getting there and giving them wide open looks.”

Pulaski Academy took 32 three-point shots, making 12. The Bruins shot 19 in the second half. Korita made just 1 of 6 attempts in the first half, but hit 6 of 9 in the second half. He finished with a game-high 29 points. Wallace added 17 for the Bruins.

Berkley led Jacksonville with 22 points. Campbell added 13 and Wolfe had 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Red Devils won the rebounding battle 39-20.

The Bruins had made all five of its free-throw attempts until the two front-end misses in the final minute. They finished 5 of 7 from the line. Jacksonville hit 18 of 22, including 7 of 8 in the fourth quarter.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot good in all areas against WM

Special to The Leader

The Cabot Panthers defeated the visiting West Memphis Blue Devils (7-9, 1-4) Friday night by a final of 73-56. The Panthers (12-5, 3-2) led by 12 at the half, dominated the third quarter and held on in the fourth for the victory.

“I thought we did a good job tonight in all aspects of the game,” said Cabot head coach Jerry Bridges. “I thought our defense was very solid. They like to get the ball to high post a lot and high-low you. I thought our guards did a great job of keeping the ball out of the post. It was just a well-balanced game. I’m sure we shot the ball well, because we usually take good shots. I thought we rebounded well. I liked our balance and everything. It was a good game.”

Hunter York hit two three-pointers and one two-pointer to lead the Panthers in scoring in the first quarter, as the home team outscored West Memphis 15-10. York started the scoring and Garrett Rowe snagged an offensive rebound and put it in to give Cabot a 5-0 lead.

Baskets by Michael Smith, Hunter Southerland and a steal and lay-up by York stretched the lead for the Panthers. Gary Henderson had eight points for the visitors, including two three-pointers.

Nick Thomas scored the first two points for Cabot in the second quarter, then hit a three-pointer for a 23-13 lead, then gave the Panthers a 27-17 lead with a layup. Thomas also scored the final two points of the half, hitting two free throws with three seconds to go.

Rowe added a three-pointer and a two-point basket in the quarter as Cabot outscored West Memphis 20-13 to lead 35-23 at the intermission.

The Panthers had very balanced scoring in the third quarter with seven players scoring a total of 21 points, and four players sharing the lead with four points.

Adolfo Iglesias was one of the four with a tip-in for a 54-28 lead. Dannie Gatewood had seven of the nine points for the Blue Devils.

West Memphis outscored Cabot 24-17 in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers held on and sank 8 of 12 free throws to secure the lead.

The Blue Devils hit three three-point baskets, but missed eight free throws while making only five in the final quarter. Jake Ferguson sank a three-pointer for Cabot.

York and Thomas each had 16 points to lead the Panthers in scoring, Rowe added 13 and Smith had eight points.

Cabot outrebounded the Blue Devils 21-13 and shot 6 percent from the field.

Gatewood led West Memphis with 19 points and Henderson added 14, including four three-point baskets.

Cabot hits the road twice this week for 7A/6A East games. The Panthers were at Jonesboro on Tuesday and will travel to Searcy on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS girls erase big deficit to upset PA

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils showed tremendous resolve and toughness in earning a huge win on Friday at the Devils’ Den. The Lady Devils handed Pulaski Academy its first conference loss of the season, creating a three-way tie for first place in the 5A Central, and did it after a miserable start that resulted in a 20-4 second-quarter deficit.

“It’s a great win for us, no doubt about it,” said Jacksonville coach William Rountree. “That second half, we played like I felt like we could play all along. There’s been a big adjustment for these girls. But our scorers scored when we needed them to. Our ball handlers did a great job of getting things going and not turning it over. I thought we defended well. Those last two quarters were our best basketball of the year. And how bout Tiffany Smith coming through in the second half after not getting on the board at all in the first half. That was a great performance.”

Smith finished with a team-high 20 points. After missing all 10 shot attempts in the first half, she went 7 for 9 in the second half, and made 3 of 4 free-throw attempts.

“Tiffany is a uniquely talented player,” Rountree said. “I’ll tell you what helped her in this game. She’s known as our shooter, and those shots weren’t falling. In that second half, she put the ball on the floor and got to the basket, and got a couple to fall for her.”

Jacksonville (9-8, 5-1) managed just one basket the entire first quarter against Pulaski Academy’s matchup zone as the Lady Bruins built a 16-2 lead heading into the second period.

The visitors came in with a clear game plan of utilizing its considerable size advantage and feeding the ball to 6-foot post player Alex Otwell.

That strategy worked as long as Jacksonville failed to hit from outside, but in the second quarter, senior guard Keke Alcorn drained two-straight three pointers that forced the Lady Bruins, not to change defenses, but to at least extend the zone a bit further out.

Jacksonville never stopped applying pressure defensively either, and it began to take a toll in the second quarter.

The Lady Red Devils forced six turnovers in the second period, including four steals – two by Markela Bryles in the middle of the zone press, and one each by ball-pressuring guards Alcorn and Antrice McCoy.

Jacksonville won the second quarter 17-13 and went into halftime trailing 29-19.

“I told them at halftime, we need to win the third quarter,” Rountree said. “That will get it into single digits and we can go from there. They went out there and they did that. They got us right back into the game. I really felt going into the fourth quarter we had a great opportunity to win the game.”

Indeed, by the time the fourth quarter began, Pulaski Academy’s lead was down to 39-35. The Lady Bruins scored first in the third quarter doing just what they had done in the first half, feeding Otwell down low.

From that point, the Lady Red Devils went on a 12-2 run with Smith leading the charge. Her steal and layup at 5:10 made it 31-26.

With three minutes left, she hit a three pointer that completed the run and made it 33-31.

The two teams traded a pair of buckets on four consecutive possessions until Jacksonville finally got a stop and had its first opportunity to tie or take the lead. The Lady Devils came up empty on two possessions and Otwell closed the quarter with another bucket.

Jacksonville opened the fourth quarter on fire from the floor, scoring eight points in the first two minutes and taking its first lead of the game. Alcorn tied it for the first time at 41 with a running floater with 6:13 lead. McCoy then got a steal and a layup to put the Lady Red Devils up for the first time at the 5:56 mark.

PA called timeout to regroup, and the break stopped the onslaught momentarily. The Lady Bruins scored out of the timeout and Jacksonville threw the ball away on two consecutive possessions without being under pressure. That forced Rountree to ask for a timeout, and after his 30-second talk, Jacksonville controlled the rest of the game.

With the scored tied at 43, Smith launched a 30-footer that ripped the net chords and gave Jacksonville the lead for good with 4:49 left in the game. Alcorn followed that with a steal and a layup just 22 seconds later. That forced another PA timeout, and this time they came out of the break in a triangle and two defense, aimed at stopping Smith and Alcorn from getting any open looks outside. So Jacksonville went inside. Bryles scored the next five points for the Red Devils, two buckets coming from nifty interior passing by McCoy.

“That’s where playing a complete game comes in,” Rountree said. “We got back in it a lot with our defense – forcing the tempo. When they took that away, we were still effective in the half-court offense.”

PA’s Mackie Kuhn hit two free throws to make it 55-52 with a minute left, but the Lady Bruins could not even get another shot off.

Three PA possessions ended in Jacksonville steals to close the game – one by Alcorn, one by Sacha Richardson and McCoy picked Kuhn from behind with 10 seconds left to seal the win.

Jacksonville finished with 12 steals, three each by McCoy and Bryles, and two each by Smith, Alcorn and Richardson. The Lady Devils forced 20 turnovers.

Both teams went 17 of 35 from two-point range. PA made 15 of 18 free-throw attempts while Jacksonville hit 7 of 11. The Lady Bruins (14-5, 5-1) made just 1 of 7 three pointers while Jacksonville went 5 of 19.

Alcorn dropped in 14 for Jacksonville while Bryles scored 13. Otwell led all scorers with 21 while Kuhn scored 17.

SPORTS STORY >> Teams enjoy the shoot

Leader sportswriter

The brand new Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex on Graham Road in Jacksonville opened its doors to more than 2,000 people Saturday and about 700 Sunday.

Participants wasted no time getting out to the shooting range and testing their skills.

The $3.2 million state-of-the-art complex is the largest of its kind in the state, and includes 14 trap fields, three skeet overlays, three lit fields, two pavilions, a lake and a 5,100-square-foot clubhouse that includes a classroom.

Some of the first participants who hit the shooting range when the doors opened at 10 a.m. were members of the Cabot High School trapshooting team. A little more than 20 of the group’s close to 70 participants were out honing their skills on the new course, and it wasn’t just the facility itself that had the participants excited. It’s also the prices.

“As far as team practices, it’s very beneficial because of the price,” said Cabot trapshooting coach Jerry Hill. “It’s going to cut our costs down by thirds. We can practice longer and they can shoot more, which gives them more practice for the team at the team price.”

The normal rate for a round of 25 targets is $4 for Jacksonville residents and $5 for everyone else, but for trapshooting teams associated with the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, or AYSSP, team prices are $2.50 per round.

Hill said his team members couldn’t wait to get out and test the new range.

“They were very excited,” Hill said. “As you can tell, we’ve got about 20 kids out here on three of these fields, and that’s about half of them.”

Some of Hill’s top shooters in the program are junior Logan Mahon and sophomores Ben Whiting and Chase Myers, and all three were out on the range as soon as the doors to the complex opened.

“I’ve been shooting since the sixth grade,” said Myers, “and the prices are a lot better. It’s an expensive sport and you don’t have to spend near as much money here. Normally we’d have to go to Remington and that’s a little bit of a drive for us. This is a lot closer.”

“I’ve been driving past it for the last couple of months,” said Whiting. “I didn’t think it was going to be done by today, but it got done a lot earlier than we thought. It’s less expensive here. This year, we just started (team practice). I’ve ran a couple of 25s (hitting 25 out of 25 targets), a bunch of 24s. I just hit two 24s and he (Myers) hit a 25.”

The biggest reason the construction of the complex got set in motion is because participation in the AYSSP has skyrocketed in the last few years. Currently, there are around 6,000 participants in the AYSSP. And those numbers, especially in the central part of the state, continue to grow.

“It’s been a great thing because it helps me keep my grades up and you have to keep your grades up to shoot,” said Mahon. “Look at all these friends I got. There are about 60 of them out here. It’s nice here because you get two different backgrounds, and it’s just nice to shoot somewhere else other than just Remington.

“It’s real open. They’ve got a big parking lot, which will be good for the Game and Fish shoots, and the clubhouse looks real nice. The facilities are really nice out here.”

Plans for the complex began about 18 months ago, and even though there were setbacks along the way, those involved with the construction of the project are pleased with the current facilities and are excited about the plans for expansion in the future.

“We’re tickled to death,” said Jacksonville Parks and Recreation director Kevin House of the complex’s completion. “Of course, construction fell behind, but that’s normal. We wish it would’ve been open sooner, but everything’s turned out great. I think it’s something we can all be proud of.”

“The weekend was excellent. Everything went great. Everything went smooth. It was better than I expected,” House said. “Not all of them were shooters. Many were just visiting and see what we had to offer.”

Other than the various tournaments the complex will host in the near future, additional projects for the complex include the addition of a 3-D archery range, rifle and pistol ranges, an RV parking area and possibly a cafeteria in years to come. A big part of what helped the complex break ground was the $2 million donated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation.

AYSSP state coordinator Chuck Woodson said a new, larger facility was needed in the central area to accompany the growing number of participants in the AYSSP.

“The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation really respects the youth and wants to help them in every aspect they can,” said Woodson.

“Once they got the plans going, they partnered with the city of Jacksonville and they supplied the money and Jacksonville supplied a lot of the funds itself. Nearly three-and-a-half million dollars and 18 months later we’ve got a brand new facility.

“This is going to be the benchmark for a lot of other states. It’s going to bring a bunch of revenue in for the city with hotels, gas, groceries and food vendors. And it gives us a place for the kids to come and shoot, but they come from all over – Fayetteville, El Dorado, Eudora and Fort Smith. So it gives them a great place to come and visit.

“It’s a whole different clientele to come in. Older folks can come here and shoot, too. So it’s just a win-win for everybody.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher was on hand Saturday to witness the complex’s first day of business, and was just as excited as everyone involved to see the project’s plans become a reality.

“It’s a source of pride for the community,” said Fletcher. “Can you imagine in the summer when the grass is green and this place is full of people? Of course, today we’re competing with the Big Buck Classic and the last day of duck hunting season, and we still got a great crowd.

“I told somebody today when I drove up, I said ‘The two great sounds of Jacksonville to me right now are C-130s flying overhead and the sounds of shotguns going off on the range.’

“The thing though that stands out to me is how many parents and their children are here. This is a family sport. I’m very proud of this place. It took a lot of people that worked real hard to bring this about. It’s the largest in the state, and Kevin (House) is already getting phone calls from other states that want to have tournaments here.

“So that’s an impressive sign that people are planning trips to come to Jacksonville. This is going to be a hub of activity throughout the week for people around here. I’m excited about it, just seeing the kids come here and to see their faces. You just can’t describe that. I think a lot of hunters are fixing to be born in this facility right here.”

SPORTS STORY >> Bears stay close, win in overtime

Leader sportswriter

It took an extra period to decide the winner between rivals North Pulaski and Sylvan Hills in Friday’s 5A-Central Conference matchup at the Falcons’ Nest, and even though the Bears trailed most of the game, they stayed within striking distance of the Falcons and made just enough plays in overtime to leave Jacksonville with a 67-66 win.

North Pulaski led 18-16 at the end of the first quarter, and looked as if it might run away with the game in the second as it began the period with a 10-0 run.

The run was capped with a crowd-pleasing dunk by RaShawn Langston that was the result of a Steven Farrior steal at half court. Langston’s dunk gave the Falcons their largest lead of the night at 28-16 with 4:12 remaining in the first half.

Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis called timeout after Langston’s thunderous dunk, and what Davis said during the timeout worked as the Bears finished the half with 13-4 run that cut the Falcons’ lead to 32-29 at halftime.

“It’s taken a little time to get everybody on the same page, so my plan was to play through it,” said Davis of his team’s first-half comeback. “Stick to the game plan, keep trusting each other, and it’ll break through for you, but you just have to stay with it.

“We took some quick shots. We took some rushed shots, but we never really seemed to panic. We kind of just kept playing.”

Each team scored 16 points in the third quarter, so the Falcons maintained their three-point lead by the start of the fourth, leading 48-45. The fourth quarter was neck-and-neck the whole way.

With 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Bears’ shooting guard Ronnie Hinton put Sylvan Hills up 60-59 with a three-pointer. Farrior made 1 of 2 free throws on the following possession to tie the game at 60 apiece, and with 13 seconds to play, Langston was able to penetrate the lane and finish with a right-handed floater that gave the Falcons a 62-60 lead.

Davis immediately called timeout to set up one final play, and on the Bears’ final possession of regulation, sophomore point guard Cordy Winston drove to the right side of the basket and put up a highly-contested shot that fell short.

Aumonie Armond went up for the putback, but missed, and North Pulaski got the rebound with one second remaining. However, goal tending was called on the Falcons after Winston’s shot attempt, which gave Winston credit for the basket and eventually sent the game to overtime with the score tied at 62-62.

The Falcons once again took the lead at the start of the overtime period on a pair of free throws by senior Arren Scruggs, but Sylvan Hills eventually battled back as it did before and tied the game at 66-66, this time on a successful putback by Armond after a Winston miss.

Armond’s putback came with 47 seconds to play in overtime, and the Bears’ defense held the Falcons scoreless on the next possession. Winston once again got the call on the Bears’ final possession, and as he did at the end of the fourth period, he drove to the basket. This time though, for the go-ahead shot attempt.

Winston’s shot came up short as he penetrated the lane, but he was fouled on the play, and with 1.2 seconds remaining, he made the first of two free-throw attempts to set the final score.

After the game, North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson couldn’t help but recall his team’s sudden collapse at the end of the second quarter.

“When we went up 12, we were at that point where we could put them away, but then we started playing not to lose,” said Jackson. “We took our foot off the pedal a little bit when we should’ve kept going, but we fought back.

“Once again, we had crucial times in the ball game where we didn’t take care of the basketball. We didn’t hit free throws when we needed to knock them down, and (Sylvan Hills) found a way to pull it out. They got the ball to their point guard and he made something happen. You tell any kid when it’s like that, you got to get to the basket and make a play.”

Friday’s game was the Bears’ third-straight that ended in overtime, but the first in that span that resulted in a win for Davis’ team.

“If nothing else, we’re getting some extra minutes,” Davis said. “For us, we just have to keep playing through. We have to play through contact. We have to play through adversity. We have to play through misses.

“It made me a little nervous because this is the third one and I’ve told them to play through, play through, and it broke through for them. I told them ‘I’m going to sit back over here (the bench) and watch you guys go play a basketball game, and you’ve got to figure it out.’ And to their credit, they stepped up and made plays at the end.”

North Pulaski made 26 of 54 shots from the floor for 48 percent. Sylvan Hills made 20 of 46 shots for 43 percent. The Falcons also outrebounded the Bears 30-25, but the host team had 13 turnovers in the second half alone, equaling the total number of turnovers the Bears committed in the five periods played.

Sylvan Hills was also the better team at the free-throw and three-point lines. The Bears made 75 percent of their free throws on 21 of 28 shooting, and 33 percent of their threes on 6 of 18 shooting.

North Pulaski made 13 of 23 attempts at the line for 57 percent, and just 1 of 11 three-point attempts for 9 percent.

Winston led all scorers with 22 points. Hinton had 18. Armond had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Tre West finished with eight.

For the Falcons, Langston led the way with 20 points. Farrior had 12 points and seven rebounds, and Scruggs scored nine.

The Falcons (8-9, 1-5) played at McClellan last night after deadlines, and will play another 5A-Central road game Friday at Helena-West Helena Central.

Sylvan Hills (8-8, 2-4) played host to Jacksonville last night in more 5A-Central action, and will travel to McClellan on Friday for its next conference game.

Both games are set to tip-off at approximately 7:30 p.m.