Police & Fire

Caddo Valley considering curfew in light of bonfire, bathroom brawls

By JOEL PHELPS | arkadelphian.com

CADDO VALLEY, Arkansas — City councilmen today will consider a temporary curfew while lawmen continue battling juvenile violence stemming from a recent fight in a high school bathroom.

A convoluted timeline of events surround what officials contend is an unrelated arrest of an Arkadelphia High School student found with a gun in his possession on campus.

In a matter of a couple of weeks, school officials and police have dealt with brawls involving juveniles — both on and off campus — as well as an unrelated gun possession incident that resulted in a student’s arrest. While rumors abound, police assure that the fisticuffs and gun possession are separate incidents.

“While the gun possession was unrelated to the previous incidents, the actions of Cpl. Ward stopped that gun from getting into the school.”

— Arkadelphia Police Chief Jason “Shorty” Jackson

The violence started in late October when a fight broke out in a boys restroom at AHS. As a result, students involved were suspended from school and some suffered minor abrasions and bruising. On the weekend of Nov. 4, students hosting a bonfire party at a residence on Hot Springs Drive in Caddo Valley reportedly found themselves the target of an attack by a group of uninvited guests. In the aftermath of that brawl, one juvenile suffered a collapsed lung and another suffered a fractured orbital socket, top police officials told us in a telephone interview.

In response to those incidents, school authorities at AHS took precautionary measures before classes began on the morning of Monday, Nov. 6. Students entering the building were all sent through a metal detector at the entrance. One student set off the detector and was thoroughly searched, leading Cpl. Dewayne Ward, the school’s resource officer, to locate a handgun in the student’s waistband. The student was arrested at the scene without incident, Arkadelphia Police Chief Jason “Shorty” Jackson said. Ward ordered a brief lockdown as he removed the juvenile from the line of students. The lockdown lasted 5-10 minutes in the nearby auxiliary gym, and the hallway was cleared at the time of the arrest.

“While the gun possession was unrelated to the previous incidents, the actions of Cpl. Ward stopped that gun from getting into the school,” Jackson said. The chief said the student gave no reason for having the gun on campus, but affirmed it had “zero connection” to the bathroom or bonfire incidents. On Friday, that student remained in custody at a juvenile detention center, and the school board is likely to expel him at an upcoming meeting.

Law enforcement this week has boosted its presence on campus as police and school officials wrangle with rumors of threats supposedly made after the bonfire incident.

Superintendent Nikki Thomas said the district takes every rumor and threat seriously and works with police to ascertain factual information. “We ask that if students or parents have any credible information to report it to authorities or administrators and refrain from spreading it among friends,” Thomas said. “We have security measures in place to keep our students safe, and we are communicating everything we can to parents.”

Clark County Sheriff Jason Watson reiterated that, too often, rumors cause false alarm. “You don’t want to spread false information that gets people upset,” Watson said. “If you see or hear something, make sure you notify the appropriate authorities — like a principal — and they’ll report it to us so those facts can be checked.” The sheriff said that, with the exception of the student in possession of a gun, no arrests have been made in connection with the violence.

The Caddo Valley City Council will hold a special-called meeting at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, to decide whether to enforce a curfew. City officials there did say that the police department is recommending the curfew because of the recent events at both the bonfire and on campus. The proposed time of said curfew is not yet known; arkadelphian.com will provide updates once a decision is reached.

A curfew in Caddo Valley would affect citizens living within those city limits. No such proposal is being considered in Arkadelphia.

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