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Arkansas deputy dies in shooting while responding to call, sheriff says

Law enforcement officials block an intersection during a standoff after two officers were shot in western Arkansas on Wednesday.
(Michael Woods / Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

An Arkansas deputy died Wednesday after being shot while responding to a call at a house, the sheriff said.

Sebastian County Deputy Bill Cooper was pronounced dead at a hospital around 1:15 p.m., Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said during a news conference. Hackett Police Chief Darrell Spells also was shot and suffered superficial wounds.

“We have limited information as to why this has happened,” Hollenbeck said, adding that investigators are looking into the possibility that this was a planned attack.

After the shooting, the suspect barricaded himself inside the house for more than 4 1/2 hours before being arrested.

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Authorities said the injured officers went to the home, about 6 miles from the Oklahoma border, after the suspect’s father asked them to check on his son.

After the shootings, dozens of police vehicles, including a SWAT truck, quickly descended on the area. The shootings occurred in a rural, wooded area near Hackett, a town of about 800 residents.

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James Markward, who lives nearby, said he heard a commotion early Wednesday.

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“It woke me up this morning, the gunshots. Of course I didn’t know what was going on,” the 72-year-old told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “My neighbor called me and asked if I was shooting, and I said, ‘No, not me.’ ”

Markward said the shooting suspect once helped him split wood, but said he hadn’t seen the man in a few years.

“As far as I know, he was all right,” he said.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he didn’t have details about the shooting but said it underscored the danger that the state’s law enforcement officers face.

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“It’s a risky business, and it really illustrates the importance of our support for law enforcement,” Hutchinson told reporters at an event in North Little Rock.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, whose district includes part of Sebastian County, also didn’t have details about the incident but echoed the governor’s support for police statewide.

“This has to stop,” Westerman said. “It’s a shame the price that law enforcement officers are paying right now, and, again, I don’t know any details about what’s happening here, but my heart and prayer is with them and their families.”

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