Former Arkansas sheriff catches burglars in act

Two Southwest Arkansas men are accused of burglarizing a home and getting caught in the act by a former lawman.

Both suspects were charged this week in Clark County for breaking into a vacant Highway 8 residence owned by former sheriff David Turner.

“The old policeman in me kicked in. I wasn’t gonna let them get away … I didn’t want them to do it to somebody else.”

— David Turner, former Clark County sheriff

Now a maintenance employee at Arkadelphia Public Schools, Turner was on his lunch break recently when a friend called to tell him she saw two people peering through windows at the property, then sent him a photo of a vehicle in the yard.

Turner, who was at home at the time he got the phone call, told The Arkadelphian that he grabbed his pistol and got into his personal vehicle to drive to the home, which is undergoing renovations. En route, he received a second phone call that the perpetrators were now inside the home. Turner arrived to find the vehicle parked in the backyard, doors ajar and engine running. He dialed the sheriff’s office, then saw a white male exit the home, he said.

The former lawman confronted the male. “What are you doing in this house?” Turner said he asked of the suspect, who, according to Turner, replied that he was looking at foreclosed property. Turner said he asked for identification but was denied, then told the man to sit on the ground and wait for law enforcement. That’s when the suspect got into the SUV and began driving away, according to court documents. A second suspect, a black male, then dashed across the yard and got into the waiting vehicle. 

The chase was on.

“The old policeman in me kicked in,” Turner, 62, admitted. “I wasn’t gonna let them get away.” Turner provided dispatchers with “turn-by-turn” directions as he pursued the vehicle, following the suspects on Old Military Road, Bledsoe Road, DeGray Road, Highway 8, Mt. Zion Road, Central Road, Highway 26 and, eventually, onto Interstate 30 at Gum Springs. With Turner on their trail, the suspects would head east toward Arkadelphia. An off-duty patrolman joined the pursuit on I-30 and caught up just before the Arkadelphia exit, where Turner said the suspect vehicle drove between two 18-wheelers before a last-second merge onto the Arkadelphia exit. It would be there that officers with the Arkadelphia Police Department would make the traffic stop and arrest the two without further incident, an affidavit states.

Turner said the pursuit lasted about 30 minutes. After his 30-year law enforcement career, Turner said the experience as a civilian felt no different than when he wore a badge. “I just made up my mind I wasn’t letting them get away, because I didn’t want them to do it to somebody else,” he said.

Items stolen from Turner’s property included copper wire and tubing.

The suspects both are charged with residential burglary, theft of property and first-degree criminal mischief. Bond for both men was set at $25,000. Both men have been appointed representation from the Clark County Public Defender’s Office. Clark County Prosecutor Dan Turner (no relation to David Turner) is representing the state in the matter.

Turner said his law enforcement training kicked into effect as soon as he confronted the suspect. “That’s why I started being careful and told him to sit down on the ground,” Turner said. His advice for someone who witnesses a crime firsthand: “If you haven’t been trained, notify the authorities,” he cautioned. “Don’t try to intervene or stop them. Get a good description and a license plate number, if possible, and tell the police.”

Turner was Clark County sheriff from 2007-2010. As an Arkansas sheriff Turner will keep the title for life. Asked if he longs for his days in law enforcement, he replied, “I don’t miss the work but I miss the people that I worked with.”

Categories: People, Police & Fire