Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

TOP STORY >> Residents in Lonoke stunned by arrests

BY JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Although many of them are not surprised about the alleged corruption in their town.

Reaction to the arrest of Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, his wife and Mayor Thomas Privett on Mon-day ranged from stunned surprise to resignation for those who said it was about time.

Ex-convict Fran Lindsey expressed shock.

“Jay has stood behind me,” she said rushing to city hall when she heard the news Tuesday morning that Campbell had been arrested on drug charges.

Campbell arrested her for distribution of methamphetamine about three years ago, and when she served her time, “He got me a car and set me up with a job,” she said. “I stand behind them.”

But a pair of city councilmen said the chief’s status on paid administrative leave had to be re-examined.

“I’m comfortable with the mayor,” said councilman Michael Florence, who noted that the mayor owned up to his mistaken judgment months ago in having city prisoners do work at his house.

“We’ve got a tough time ahead of us now,” said Capt. Sean O’Nale, the acting police chief.

City Clerk Gwen Pauschert said calls to city hall from the public had been mostly supportive of the mayor.

“I was floored,” said Lloyd Whitacre, a member of the city police commission, who also expressed anger that prosecutor Lona McCastlain held her news conference in her office, where there was only room for members of the press.

Interviewed in a grocery store parking lot, a young black woman who didn’t want to be identified said, “I’ve been having less confidence in the police department. This is very sick. I think it’s all true.”

The woman, a lifelong Lonoke resident, said of the mayor, “He needs to get the hell out.”

Ellen Massey, a nurse who has lived in Lonoke for three years, said, “I think it’s a mess. I’m gld they caught them.”
Of the police chief she said, “He knows that’s not right. This is the stuff (methamphetamine) that we’re trying to keep the kids away from. They need to realize what message they are sending the kids.”

Lynn Gooden, who is moving to Lonoke from the county, said, “It’s pretty bad for the chief. He’s for the drug dealers.”

Gooden said he has a brother in prison for arson, and the family is disappointed that the city of Lonoke has been stripped of its Act 309 program, which they hoped would bring him back to town to finish his sentence working around town while being held in the city jail.

“How can you trust (Chief Campbell)?” he asked. “He stays arresting people in the black neighborhood. Every dog has their day.”

“If they are guilty, they need to pay for it,” said Rick Stevens, a post office worker. “They need to pay for it. I think they are guilty. I know old Bobby Cox (arrested for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine) and he’s the first to holler ‘justice.’”