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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Road hunting suspect surrenders

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Staff Writer

Dennis Lawrence of Melbourne turned himself in to authorities Jan. 2 after having fled from wildlife officers six days earlier.

During a check on hunters Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officers Nick Childers and Y.D. Whitehurst stopped a vehicle south of Melbourne on Tate Road Dec. 27, according to an affidavit by Whitehurst.

Officers observed two bobcats and one raccoon in the back of Lawrence's truck. The passenger in the vehicle, Carl Willford, had a capped muzzle loading rifle lying by his left leg, Whitehurst reported.

Willford was ordered to remove the cap from the muzzleloading rifle while Lawrence moved his truck to a driveway just off the road.

Both men exited the truck while the officers looked at the wildlife in the vehicle.

Lawrence told authorities he had trapped the animals, the affidavit said. Officers observed a five-gallon bucket in the bed of the truck full of assorted untagged traps, Whitehurst said.

When Whitehurst reported the incident to Izard County Sheriff Joe Martz, the sheriff told him to bring Lawrence in because he was a felon in possession of a firearm.

Whitehurst asked for permission to look in the cab of the truck and Lawrence granted it, according to the affidavit. Lawrence got into the truck while both game and fish officers surrounded the vehicle, with Whitehurst positioned on the driver's side and Childers at the passenger side, when the driver fled, Whitehurst reported.

Whitehurst attempted to grab the steering wheel while Childers was trying to remove the muzzle-loading rifle. Childers' jacket caught in the door of the suspect's truck and he was dragged several yards along the road before he was able to free himself.

Lawrence drove the vehicle up a dead-end road and then fled on foot.

Officers took Willford into custody.

After additional officers arrived Whitehurst transported Childers to Calico Rock Medical Center where he was treated and released.

Childers, who has been with the commission for 28 years, suffered a strained hip and a broken toe in the incident.

Wildlife officer John Crisman secured the scene while Deputy Chuck Day arrived to examine the abandoned truck, but the weapon and bobcats had been removed.

Day said Lawrence had ample time to remove the items from the truck.

A tracking dog from the canine center was brought in to search for the suspect but after a couple of hours the trail grew cold.

Lawrence turned himself in to Chief Deputy Earnie Blackley the morning of Jan. 2.Officers confiscated a bag of marijuana, firearms and impounded the truck that Lawrence and Willford were traveling in.

Authorities discovered the truck was registered in the names of three other people, none of whom was Lawrence. Whitehurst noted that Lawrence does not possess a valid driver's license.

Willford was charged with possession of a controlled substance and road hunting. He posted a bond in the amount of $510 and was released five hours after his arrest, said an Izard County dispatcher.

Lawrence faces charges of felon in possession of firearms, fleeing and second-degree battery. He was released the same day after posting a $50,000 bond.

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