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HOT SPRINGS -- A felon on probation who shot at three men, killing one, during a confrontation in July was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty in Garland County Circuit Court.

Christopher Dean Harnar, 26, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, which was reduced from the more serious charge of second-degree murder in the death of James David Allen Echols, 27, of Hot Springs. Harnar was sentenced to the maximum of 20 years in prison.

Harnar also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by certain persons and was sentenced to 20 years, and to five counts of aggravated assault and was sentenced to 12 years on each count, the maximum, with all the sentences to run concurrently.

Harnar was originally charged with two counts of aggravated assault stemming from the two other men he had fired at, but chief deputy prosecutor Kara Petro noted Tuesday that three more counts were added because three children were in a car down the street when he opened fire. She said a permanent court order barring him from contact with any of the children also was issued Tuesday.

Petro said Harnar had claimed self-defense and while "there was some evidence to support that argument," he "excessively fired his gun."

She said the self-defense argument would not apply to a manslaughter charge.

The range of punishment Harnar faced on each charge was increased because he is classified as a habitual offender. He was convicted in 2011 in Ouachita Parish, La., of a felony count of attempted possession of meth, and in 2018 in Clark County of a felony count of theft by receiving. He was still on probation from the 2018 conviction.

According to affidavits, Hot Springs police responded shortly before 10 p.m. July 3 to a report of a shooting at 333 Cooper St. Echols was found on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound in his chest. Emergency personnel determined Echols was dead.

Witnesses told police that Echols got into a fight with Harnar in the road at Cooper and Hobson Avenue. They said Harnar pointed a handgun at Echols and fired several rounds, striking Echols, who then ran into his residence at 333 Cooper and collapsed on the floor.

The next day, a witness told police that he saw the shooting and later picked Harnar out of a photo lineup, according to the affidavit.

That same day, another witness told detective Mark Fallis that he had seen Harnar on the day of the shooting, the affidavit said.

As he was speaking with Harnar, another man he knew as Jimmy arrived and Harnar had pointed a handgun at the witness and Jimmy.

According to the affidavit, the witness said he later saw Harnar causing a disturbance in the middle of the road in front of 333 Cooper by waving a gun in front of a crowd of people. The crowd fled when the gun came out, the witness said.

At that point, Echols ran out of the house at 333 Cooper and confronted Harnar along with Jimmy.

The witness said Harnar pointed the gun at him, firing twice, and then turned the gun toward Jimmy and Echols and "fired several times," according to the affidavit. Echols was hit and retreated back inside his residence.

Officers went to a vacant house where they had learned Harnar, who reportedly was homeless at the time, was staying, according to the affidavit. That was where officers arrested Harnar.

Harnar admitted to shooting Echols and told police that the handgun was in the house "underneath the bed he was sleeping on," the affidavit said. Police were unable to contact the owner of the residence at that time.

Metro on 12/14/2019

Print Headline: Guilty plea earns 20 years for killing

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