Ark. deputies arrest suspect in shooting of trooper after manhunt
BY MONICA LEAS ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Copyright 2006 Little Rock Newspapers, Inc.
The eight-hour search for a man accused of shooting an Arkansas State Police trooper ended when Hot Spring County sheriff's deputies spotted him behind a Malvern motel early Sunday, a state police spokesman said.
Dozens of law enforcement officials began the search Saturday afternoon for Damon Matthew Scott, 23, the Hot Springs man state police said they stopped for speeding on U.S. 270.
The wounded trooper, Zach Owens, 24, was resting at his Malvern home Sunday after being released from a Little Rock hospital Saturday night, his wife said.
"We're very proud that he handled himself the way he did," said his wife, Angel.
Owens, who has a 2-year-old son, joined Hot Springs-based Troop K last August after serving with the Malvern police department.
Police say Scott shot Owens from the driver's seat of his Honda Civic after handing over his driver's license for the traffic stop about 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
The trooper's father, Joe Paul Owens, the one-man police force of nearby Perla who spent two decades as a Malvern police officer, heard his son's call for help.
"I heard him come across the radio," the elder Owens said in an interview.
"I heard a vehicle description, an officer's description ... I knew there had been shots fired." A bullet had struck Trooper Owens below his chin.
"I arrived on the scene and my son is standing by his car ... bleeding from the neck area," the elder Owens said.
"He didn't know how bad it was [and] he wanted me to take a look and see. ... I assured him he was OK." Holding his wound, the trooper described the suspect who had fled into the woods along Interstate 30 near U.S. 270 as dozens of law enforcement officials from across the region converged on the area.
A state police helicopter, a forestry commission airplane and several police dogs from the state Department of Correction and other law enforcement agencies canvassed a fivemile area, Troop K Capt. Mike Fletcher said.
Cpl. Woody Perry, who bunked with Owens at a 2004 training academy, drove with several colleagues from the Caddo Valley Police Department to join the search, which centered on the Ouachita River.
"We were Johnny on the spot," Perry said.
Sheriff's deputies from Hot Spring, Garland and Clark counties responded, along with Arkansas Game and Fish officials and police from Malvern, Friendship, Rockport and other cities.
After accompanying his son to the hospital, Joe Paul Owens returned to the Malvern command post just before 1 a.m.
Instinctively, he said, he headed toward the closest roadside motel.
"I remembered there was an incident years ago where someone went behind that Super 8 motel," he said.
"I thought [the suspect] is not going to go too far into the woods so he can't see the highway." Moments earlier, officers had gone to the motel's front desk and asked manager Paul Modi for information after they saw someone trying to enter an upstairs room at the back of the two-story motel.
"He wasn't a registered guest," Modi said he told the deputies.
Moments after the deputies left the front office, Modi heard shouting.
"By the time they walked out of the office, they'd seen [Scott] running and tried to stop him," Modi said.
"One of the lady officers said, `Get down, get down, don't try to run!'" For a second time in nine hours, the elder Owens responded to a call for back-up.
This time, a suspect was being held at gunpoint, the radio chattered.
Scott was arrested on a charge of attempted capital murder and was being held Sunday night in the Hot Spring County jail in lieu of $1 million bond, a Hot Spring County sheriff's deputy said.
Police had found him with a gun and several rounds of ammunition, Fletcher said.
The elder Owens, one of the first few cars to pull up at the motel, was asked to secure the suspect's weapon as Scott was handcuffed.
Owens took the handgun from where it was resting on the back of a patrol car and emptied it of ammunition.
This article was published 01/09/2006
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