The list of fugitives being sought in connection with Operation Central Sweep has whittled down to three after Terry Michael White, 26, of Batesville was arrested Sunday at 11 p.m. White was one of four on the U.S. Marshal’s Office list of fugitives to find, related to this sweep. He is being held at the White County Sheriff’s Office on 17 charges with four bonds: $250, $500, $1,900 and $100,000.
On the morning of March 11, 17 individuals were arrested as part of a sweeping law enforcement operation that targeted associates of a drug organization responsible for the distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine in Searcy and the White County area.
The new hangar at the Searcy Municipal Airport was used as a staging area as law enforcement officials from various agencies rounded up the individuals and brought them there to be taken to the White County Detention Center.
Operation Central Sweep started in April 2020 to “combat the growing violent crimes associated with gang-related activity traced to the ‘Gangster Disciples,’ a drug distribution organization operating in the Searcy area,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Bragg said.
A grand jury returned 33 indictments March 5, which were unsealed March 11, naming those charged with various drug and firearms offenses. Eight of the 33 defendants were already in state custody before the March 11 sweep. Prior to 17 others being arrested that morning, Operation Central Sweep’s investigation resulted in the seizure of 105 pounds of methamphetamine, 3.3 pounds of cocaine and 44 firearms. At an afternoon news conference, authorities displayed four additional weapons that were seized.
“It was successful and it was safe,” said Jonathan D. Ross, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “No one was hurt.”
White was also arrested in November 2020 in an incident in which a state trooper was dragged by a vehicle, sustaining minor injuries.
State Trooper 1st Class Austin Lay initiated a traffic stop at 5:49 p.m. along Ralph Reed Road, south of Arkansas Highway 157, because a minivan that White was driving reportedly had an expired license plate.
“White refused to comply with the trooper’s orders to exit the vehicle, and White sped way during the traffic stop, dragging TFC Lay along the county road,” ASP spokesman Bill Sadler said in a statement at the time.
Lay was able to “extricate himself” from the vehicle and return to his patrol unit to pursue the minivan, which traveled approximately two miles before stopping, Sadler said. White and a passenger, according to the statement, fled on foot and were apprehended a short time later.
Jackie W. Foster, 35, of Judsonia also has been preliminarily charged in connection with this incident, Sadler said. A 34-year-old woman and a 17-year-old male who were passengers in the minivan were questioned by police. The criminal investigation of the incident is continuing.
Lay was examined at a hospital and released later.
Vendors lined the Citizen’s Bank Pocket Park on Saturday Morning for the first Farmer’s Market of the season. The combination of nice weather and a nice crowd made for a successful first week.
The state recognized ongoing growth at Southside School District by allocating $22.7 million for four expansion projects across the district, including a new cafeteria for grades 7-12. The $15.4 million high school addition will also provide space for students involved in agriculture, art, band, physical education, and family and consumer science. The 122,000 sq. ft. construction will almost connect the high school and junior high buildings.
“We’ve been growing at a rate of 50 to 75 new students every year,” said Dr. Roger Rich, superintendent at Southside School District.
“We’re extremely proud and fortunate to receive these allocations,” Rich said.
The allocations also include $3.5 million for expansion at the junior and, $2.4 million for expansion at the middle school, to provide additional space for choir, art, and gifted and talented classes. A $1.2 million allocation for the elementary school will mean six to eight new classrooms.
“We’re having classes everywhere, on the stage, in the halls,” Rich said.
Batesville School District was allocated $5.3 million for expansion projects at the junior and senior high schools, and $650,419 for an expansion at Eagle Mountain Elementary.
The funds will create 100 additional classrooms (some new, some renovated), make entrances more secure, create storm-safe locations, and repair foundation damages.
“School enrollment has increased due to consolidation and school choice. In just the past ten years, student enrollment has grown by more than 500 students, nearly a 20 percent increase. Actual enrollment for next year is exceeding the state’s estimate by more than 100 students. We are currently running out of classroom space and looking for alternative solutions just to get through the next few years. We know growth will continue and the district must be proactive now to be able to handle the projected growth over the next ten years,” said Dr. Michael Hester, superintendent of the Batesville School District.
“We are excited and thankful that the State Partnership grants were awarded to Batesville School District. This is how the state is trying to help our community to keep up with the needed space and safety for our district’s record enrollment growth. This grant will help offset the cost of the project to make it more affordable,” Hester said.
With these allocations in hand, it is now up to the district’s to come up with additional funding for the projects, usually in the form of bond issues. Hester explained usually, construction can start within months of successfully passing a bond issue. If voters don’t pass the bond issues allocated money goes back to the state is distributed to other schools on the waiting list.
Southside and Batesville were two of 25 districts given part of $77.5 million from the 21-2023 Academic Facilities Partnership Program Project.
The state takes into consideration a community’s economic wealth, or lack thereof, when deciding the allocations.
The DWI case against Batesville police officer Rick King will not be presided over by Judge Chaney Taylor.
Independence County prosecutor Daniel Haney filed a motion on April 1 for the recusal of Chaney. King, through his attorney Bill Arnold, did not object to Chaney’s recusal. The motion was approved on April 21.
Judge Lance Wright, district judge out of Cleburne County, has been assigned to preside over King’s trial, which will take place Aug. 11 at 12:30 p.m.
The motion for Chaney’s recusal states that Taylor “may have been present at Fox Creek Barbecue – a restaurant that does serve alcohol – that Rick King indicated he had been the same evening.”
That means, according to the motion, that Taylor could be a material witness.
King, 34, was cited on March 12 for numerous traffic violations at approximately 11:11 p.m., according to citations that were filed.
Those charges include, along with DWI, speeding more than 15 miles per hour over the limit, open container containing alcohol in a motor vehicle, driving a vehicle without tags, as well as no liability insurance.
King is also charged with refusal to submit to a chemical test.
The sheriff’s office conducted sobriety checkpoints across the county Saturday evening, funded by the Independence County Drug Free Communities Grant.
Of the 97 contacts made, 29 were given citations. There were three arrests and one DWI arrest. Additionally, the sheriff’s office responded to three domestic violence calls that all under investigation for charges.
Also, Sheriff Shawn Stephens responded to a two vehicle accident at Main Street and Broadway in Sulphur Rock Saturday night. Upon arrival Sheriff Stephens found Marlin J. Hambrick, 20, laying in the ditch being treated by first-responders. Witnesses of the accident said Hambrick was struck by a truck after he ran a stop sign while riding an ATV. Hambrick was transported to WRMC for treatment. The report states “Upon arrival at the hospital, Sheriff Stephens spoke with Marlin about how much he had to drink. Marlin stated he had drank 13 or 14 beer and 5 or 6 shots. Sheriff Stephens red the DWI statement of rights to Marlin who agreed to take a blood test. The blood was collected by staff at WRMC and sent to Arkansas Department of Health for processing. Marlin was released on citations due to medical treatment.”
Hambrick was cited with three misdemeanors. Underage driving under the influence, operating an ATV on a public street or highway, and disregarding a stop or yield sign.