Sherwood, Arkansas

From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette of October 25, 2007

Homeowner fears shots were fatal as body investigated

Sherwood resident Larry Staley fears he may have shot a would-be burglar Tuesday morning, but he holds tightly to the hope that the man died when he slipped and fell into Gap Creek.

Police are investigating the event in which Staley, whose home on Arkansas 107 has been a frequent target of burglars, fired several shots in the direction of an intruder in his backyard early Tuesday. Though police found nothing when they searched the area just after the incident, his wife discovered a body Tuesday afternoon in the creek along the edge of the family’s property.

“I’m very much afraid that I shot the man,” Staley said Wednesday.

Sherwood police spokesman Ryan Baker identified the man as Bryant Cross, 18, of McAlmont but said investigators have not verified his involvement in the burglary attempt and are waiting for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Tuesday night, the Pulaski County coroner’s office verified that the death is being investigated as a homicide. Wednesday, Coroner Mark Malcolm said the autopsy results will be delayed because of a backlog of pending autopsies.

In the interim, Staley said he is trying to make sense of what happened. “I’m very confused as to how the man got there and when,” the former Marine said. “I certainly wasn’t trying to deliberately take a life.” Staley said Wednesday his family has been the target of burglars five times since February 2006. In July, he and his wife, Erlene, thwarted a group of burglars after the family’s fourwheelers by firing shots over their heads.

Around 1: 30 a. m. Tuesday, Erlene Staley woke to see two men running from their garage, Larry Staley said. She stayed awake to watch the men. When they returned 10 minutes later, she woke her husband and called 911.

Staley said that when he took up a position at the backdoor with a. 22 pistol in hand, he saw the two men — a black man in a black-hooded shirt who was walking toward his shed and a white man who stood at the back corner of the house.

Suddenly, he said, the white man ran toward him. The man kept running when he told him to “Freeze,” so Staley said he fired a few shots into the tops of a small stand of pine trees in his backyard. When the man crossed Gap Creek and ran up and an embankment, Staley fired a few more shots several feet to the left of the man, into the embankment.

According to police, four Sherwood off icers who arrived at the Staleys’ house around 1: 45 a. m. heard gun shots and saw someone running west, away from the house. They searched, with the help of a dog, for more than an hour, but they found no one.

During it all, Staley said he lost sight of the black man.

“I never saw the man with the hood again that night,” Staley said.

Tuesday afternoon, he did.

Staley said his wife told him she saw a body in the creek around 1: 30 p. m. He said he didn’t believe her at first but, after walking to the creek’s slippery, rocky banks, he saw the man. He said he recognized the black-hooded clothing he had seen early Tuesday, but he said he saw no blood or gunshot wound.

Regardless of the cause, Staley said that, while he was trying to protect his family and defend his property, he regrets what happened.

“I feel so bad that a man died out here,” Staley said.

Baker said investigators have located another man they believe was involved in the attempted burglary. He did not identify the man and no charges had been filed against anyone as of Wednesday afternoon.

“This is one of those cases that’s up in the air,” Baker said. “We’re trying to put the pieces together.”

Detectives will turn their investigation over to the Pulaski County prosecutor, who will determine what, if any, charges should be filed, Baker said.

Wednesday, Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said he had not received any information from Sherwood police.

He will review the reports once they are filed. He could make a determination then or ask detectives for some additional information, Jegley said.

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