Nestled on the banks of the Arkansas River where the South begins to give way to the Midwest, Little Rock, Ark., has many features of an ideal place to raise a family. But beginning in the late 1980s, violent crime in the city increased dramatically.
Fortunately, this capital of the Natural State has its share of armed, law-abiding citizens. Here are nine occasions on which they defended themselves from criminals.
A female employee at the Tobacco Rack was in the back of the store when she heard someone enter about 7:15 a.m. The woman looked toward the entrance and saw a man holding a shotgun, pointing it down toward the floor, and possibly loading it. The employee drew a revolver and demanded the intruder leave the store. The gunman pulled his jacket hood down to cover his face, saying, "I'm going, I'm going," and left the premises. Police were looking for the suspect, who was wearing a baby blue, hooded jacket. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, Ark., 05/15/04)
Artelia Withers, a 72-year-old Little Rock resident, returned from a church service one night to discover her home had been burglarized. Police investigating the burglary suggested Withers stay with relatives overnight. But Withers said she was not afraid to stay in her own home, even though she suspected the burglar might return for her other television sets and VCR. Her suspicions were validated at 6:20 the following morning when a man climbed through her living room window. Withers shot the intruder twice with a .25-cal. pistol, and police arrived shortly thereafter to arrest the man, identified as Dennis Smith, a former boarder in Withers' home. Lieutenant Hayward Finks said Smith would be charged with burglary and that the shooting appeared to be justified as Withers had felt threatened. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, Ark., 04/02/03)
Don Mosely and his wife, Jane, were inside their home when he was alerted to a sound at the front door. Expecting to see his brother, who had left moments earlier, Mosely opened the door and found himself facing a 14-year-old wearing a black hood over his head, wielding a .22 rifle and shouting "Gimme your keys!" Seconds later, Mosely was shot. After playing dead, he retrieved a gun and followed the intruder's path to the back bedroom where Jane Mosely had dialed 9-1-1 and readied her .32-cal. handgun. The couple opened fire on the attacker, inflicting fatal wounds and ending the rampage. A second suspect was quickly captured while a third was being sought by police. (The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, Ark., 09/13/98)
A prison minister, Jack Seaver was used to dealing with tough men. So when one of three teenaged bandits turned angrily toward Seaver after robbing him in his home and approached with knife in hand, the minister understood he had to defend himself. Quickly, he grabbed his .22-caliber rifle and began firing, striking his aggressor. Police later arrested the wounded suspect and one of his accomplices. "I wasn't going to shoot anybody at all until I felt threatened," the minister said. (The Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock, Ark., 01/06/96)
Three young hoodlums thought their plan was fail-safe as they smashed through the front door of Leo Wilburd's home identifying themselves as police. Wilburd didn't fall for the ruse, and instead traded shots with one of the masked intruders as his wife and three young sons cowered in a bedroom. As four errant shots struck the walls around the defiant family man, at least one of the shots from his .38 found its mark. The three intruders fled the home and were later arrested after the wounded suspect appeared at a local hospital for treatment and confessed to the crime, identifying his accomplices. (The Democrat Gazette, Little Rock, Ark., 03/22/95)
A teenager walked into a North Little Rock liquor store, brandished a gun and demanded money. The owner, unfazed, refused. The teen became nervous, and when he looked out the window, the owner pulled a handgun and shot and killed the would-be robber. Police said the slain man had been a suspect in a rape which had occurred earlier that day. (The Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock, Ark., 09/26/89)
A series of burglaries prompted Melvin Walker, Sr., to sleep next door to his clothing store. In the early morning hours he saw two men breaking in and, armed with a handgun, the shopkeeper followed them. Walker saw one loading clothing and ordered him to stop, but the second man struck the owner with a tire iron. Walker managed to fire, wounding his attacker, who was later charged with aggravated robbery and burglary. The accomplice escaped. (The Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, Ark., 07/15/88)
A 43-year-old widow awoke about 4 a.m. to find a man standing over her bed. Warning her to be silent, the intruder, clad only in pants and shoes, lunged at her. But the woman had already snatched her revolver from the night stand, firing a single shot that killed her assailant. (The Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock, Ark., 07/26/86)
Attorney Alston Jennings, his wife, and two sons were in their home when a former mental patient broke in swinging a sickle. In the melee that followed, Jennings shot the berserk man once with a .22-caliber rifle, Mrs. Jennings flailed at him with a chair, and, as Jennings grappled for the sickle, the 12-year-old son rushed to his father's aid with a .45-caliber pistol. Jennings then fatally shot the intruder three times. (Associated Press, Ark., 05/01/61)