Springdale officers cleared in shootings; use of force justified, prosecutor says

Springdale City Police Department Thursday, February 16, 2017, in downtown Springdale. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
Springdale City Police Department Thursday, February 16, 2017, in downtown Springdale. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett has cleared Springdale police officers of any wrongdoing in connection with two recent officer-involved shootings.

Durrett said Friday his office completed its review of the shootings and concluded the officers were justified in their use of force in both instances. In both cases, Durrett said, the suspect had a firearm and the officers responded to that threat.

Sgt. Matt Ray, public information officer with the Springdale Police Department, identified the officer in the Feb. 15 incident as Officer Austin Howard, who has been with the department for about three years. Ray identified the officer in the March 1 shooting as Officer Mark Solis who has been with the department for about one year. Ray said both men had been on administrative leave while the incidents were being investigated and both have returned to duty.

According to information from Springdale police, officers responded to a call about 6 p.m. Feb. 15 from a woman saying Ethan Brasel, 20, wouldn't get out of her car in the western parking lot of Murphy Park on South Pleasant Street, according to a department news release. The caller reported Brasel had a pistol in his front waistband and there was another gun in the car, police said.

Officers said they found Brasel sitting in the front passenger seat of a white car. Officers ordered Brasel out of the car and asked if he had any weapons, the release says.

Brasel said he didn't have a weapon, but officers could see a rifle in the front passenger seat of the vehicle, the release says. Brasel ran when one of the officers began to pat him down in a search for weapons, police said.

An officer yelled Brasel had a gun as police chased him west from the park, police said. An officer ordered Brasel to drop the gun, according to the release. An officer then fired his gun at Brasel but didn't hit him, the release said.

In the March 1 incident, a Springdale police officer shot a teen in the head after he pointed a gun at him, according to information from Springdale police.

The department received a call around 12:50 a.m. March 1 saying a woman had been shot on Eicher Avenue in Springdale.

When officers arrived, they found Argentina Agee, 31, shot in the arm, according to the news release.

Officers were told the suspect was in a blue Chevrolet Tahoe, which they found nearby in the driveway at 1115 Eicher Ave., the release states. Eicher Avenue is about two blocks from Murphy Park.

Officers found a 17-year-old lying under a blanket in the back seat. An officer opened the rear passenger door and told him to show his hands, according to the the release.

The teen began to sit up, and as he did, he pointed a pistol at the officer who then fired, hitting the teen in the head, according to the news release.

Durrett said the teen survived the shooting but his name isn't being released.

Durrett said body camera video and evidence found at the scene corroborate the officer's account. Durrett said there were 11 shots fired and when the officer's gun was taken into evidence it was found that 10 rounds had been fired and seven rounds remained in the 17-round magazine. The pistol used by the teen was found with a spent cartridge partially ejected from the weapon

Shooting investigations

The Washington County Sheriffs Office was the agency tasked with investigating two recent officer-involved shootings in Springdale. In both cases the officers were placed on paid administrative leave while the investigations were underway and returned to duty after the use of force was found to be justified.

Source: Washington County Prosecutors Office

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