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The Arkansas State Police said Monday that special agents were investigating the death of a Shirley man after Van Buren County sheriff's deputies reported an exchange of gunfire at his home.

State police identified the man who died Sunday night as William James Beck, 41.

The sheriff's office has asked that the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division to investigate the shooting to determine whether deputies' use of deadly force was justified.

State police spokesman Bill Sadler said two deputies initially went to the home at 205 Hazel Ave. in Shirley about 10:40 p.m. in response to a reported disturbance.

"They entered the home and were allegedly met with gunfire and returned fire both inside and outside the home," state police said in a news release.

Authorities later found Beck's body inside the house and a gun near the body.

The body has been turned over to the state Crime Laboratory, which also is to review other evidence. The state medical examiner in turn is to determine a manner and cause of death.

After its investigation, the state police will submit its case file to 20th Judicial Circuit Prosecuting Attorney Carol Crews, who will consider whether deadly force was justified in the shooting.

Sadler said a person met the two deputies when they arrived at the home "and gave them information about the disturbance." Sadler said he could not address the nature of that disturbance as that was not part of the state police investigation.

"At this juncture in the investigation, the agents are trying to determine if there were any other individuals present in the home," Sadler said. "We can account for one person who had been in the home prior to the shooting."

The state police referred questions about the deputies' identities and their current administrative status to the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Lucas Emberton did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Debby Prout, administrative assistant at the sheriff's office, said earlier that there would be "no comments at all" while the matter was under investigation.

Sadler said he could not predict how long the state police investigation would take.

Responding to a question, he said, "There seems to be an uptick in the number" of such officer-involved shootings." But he said he could not give a total number because there is no statutory requirement in Arkansas that an outside agency investigate such cases.

"There's really no way to try to begin to assess a particular reason or theory of why there may be an uptick," Sadler said.

State Desk on 06/11/2019

Print Headline: Shirley man, 41, dies; gunfire exchanged with two deputies

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