by Max Brantley
Kathy Wells of the Downtown Neighborhood Association reports on a meeting last night with Little Rock Housing Authority officials about the pellet gun sniper fire from the Parris Towers high-rise agt 18th and Broadway that has been directed at a neighbor for weeks.
As we mentioned the other day, the Authority has some hope that a man evicted from the building this week might be responsible, on account of evidence of pellet gun damage in his apartment. David Koon covered that eviction hearing and no evidence was introduced then linking him to the gunfire on the neighbor. Also, indistinct video of the sniper seems to portray a shooter other than the elderly white man who was in court for the eviction proceeding.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Eviction or not, neighbor David Jones' problem has apparently not been solved. Kathy Wells of the Downtown Neighborhood Association reports on the jump of a death threat Jones reportedly received today from another Parris Towers resident. Police have been notified.
COINCIDENTALLY: The Housing Authority has entered an agreement with the Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods agency to do public relations and marketing work for the authority, paid on an hourly basis. Director Shelly Ehenger said this was not a response to the sniper problem, but would cover a wide range of things, including an observance of the agency's 70th anniversary. More on that deal on the jump.
REPORT FROM KATHY WELLS OF DNA
David Jones walked by Parris Towers this afternoon and encountered a tenant who threatened to blow his head off with a 9-MM gun, Jones told DNA.
The man was sitting in a chair on the building patio facing Broadway, and no gun was visible, Jones said, but the tone was angry and convincing. He said that Jones had gotten a resident evicted who had done nothing wrong, Jones continued. As the man continued to curse him, Jones said, two others in nearby chairs got up and left.
Jones said he used the camera he was carrying to take the man’s picture.
Jones said that he rounded the building, entered the front door and reported the threat to the off-duty police officer patrolling the building, and that officer radioed the report to headquarters, and arranged for the detective already on his case to respond.
Jones complimented the “immediate” response of the detective, who was accompanied by two officers. They identified the resident, who remained sitting on the patio, Jones said, Once that report was taken, the detective recommended he go straight to the prosecutor’s office to seek a warrant for the man’s arrest, Jones said.
Christi Walls, building manager, came out and spoke to him, to express her concern over the incident, Jones said. She told him administrators were trying to get rid of the “bad elements,” he said.
The man moved to benches by the front door, and as he left, Jones said, the man again sneered at him, saying “Where are your police buddies now?”
Jones said that he did report the incident and police report number to staff at the office of Prosecutor Larry Jegley, who told him to return with a copy of the actual police report. That takes four days, Jones said, so he must wait out that time with the resident who threatened him next door to his home and family.
EARLIER REPORT FROM KATHY WELLS
The DNA Board of Directors and a neighbor met last night with LR Housing Authority officials regarding ongoing sniping at Parris Towers directed against the man next door, his dog and his car. To date, there has been no arrest.
To sum up: Board members discussed in detail ongoing incidents of pellet-gun shooting at Parris Towers with Shelly Ehenger, Ex. Dir. Of the LR Housing Authority, and her four colleagues. These were Christi Walls, building manager; her boss, Tina Gooch, dir. Of public housing for the agency; Barbara Watkins, the ast. mgr. for the building; and Ray McCullough, resident services coordinator for the building.
DNA repeated its traditional message: we support the law-abiding citizens and property owners, and we insist that lawbreaking owners should be closed down as operating a nuisance property. Managers who break the law, or fail to take care of, and remove and/or assure the arrest of lawbreaker tenants, should have the rental property closed down as a public nuisance.
DNA is about to get a firm time to meet next week with Cong. Vic Snyder, to raise this issue with him. DNA also, by the way, intends to raise our concerns about how new federal regs overseeing appraisers in the lending business are sending into our area those who are badly educated about historic houses, so our homes are under-valued when put on the market.
In the discussion about the sniper, Ehenger told DNA that one tenant, who may be the sniper, is being evicted today. The 65-year-old man was served formal notice yesterday, following a court hearing last week, she said. That eviction was based on threats made to the building manager, she said.
As this process moved through channels, going from the judge to the sheriff to formal eviction papers being served, Ehenger said, her staff looked for any gun or pellets during regular inspections of apartments for pest control. She said they found pellets and BBs, but no gun, in one apartment. The tenant had shot and damaged the walls and appliances, she said. This is the same man being evicted today, she said.
The police did not make any arrest after the findings of the staff were relayed, Ehenger said. Chief Stuart Thomas of the LR Police Dept. told DNA yesterday afternoon that there was no evidence on which to make an arrest, so far. Both conceded that everyone is now waiting to see what happens next.
Ehenger said an off duty police officer had been hired to patrol the building, in addition to the private security firm already on duty there.
“We’ve done all we can,” Ehenger told Board members. She said Authority officials acted as soon as David Jones, the neighbor, complained about pellet-gun sniping from the building that injured his dog, three weeks ago. The agency is offering a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the sniper, she said.
Walls said that she only spoke once to Jones, at the initial complaint. She did seek a second visit, but he was not home, she added. Another time, they exchanged greetings when she passed by the house once, and he was in the yard, she said.
Jones told DNA that the next morning, after he complained to the building manager, he found his car had been damaged by pellets, escalating the crime.
He said he intended to attend last night’s meeting, but fell and pulled a muscle in his back just before the session, so was unable to be present.
He said seven police reports have been filed so far about the ongoing sniping. He is offering an additional $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the sniper.
Margaret Norton, who lives across Broadway from Parris Towers, said all had been generally quiet there recently, until this incident. She said there was concern at the Governor’s Mansion nearby about the sniping.
MORE ON CJRW DEAL
Shelly Ehenger called back on what it will cost to hire CJRW to handle the public relations for Little Rock Housing Authority. She's working with Jordan Johnson.
$250 per hour for marketing consultation
$150 per hour for research
$75 hour for print production
$150 per hour for "copy concepts"
Asked if she had developed an estimate of how much time CJRW will work on Little Rock Housing Authority projects this year, Ehenger said she couldn't, because the company will be utilized on a "by task" basis. Among the projects she hopes to work with CJRW on: putting together a training video for landlords and tenants; a bi-monthly tenant/landlord newsletter; annual reports to the Federal government; organizing groundbreaking ceremonies, and doing "qualitative and quantitative research" to see how the Housing Authority can better serve the community.
"It's really assisting us not as a traditional PR (firm)," Ehenger said. "We're good stewards of the public dollars, but we need to also make sure that people know what we're doing, how much of an asset public housing is, and how to access those assets."
Ehenger said that hiring an in-house communications director for the Housing Authority wasn't considered, because finding one person who could do event planning, print production, video production, and other services was probably unlikely. "Even if we had a person," Ehenger said, "we probably would have had to procure the additional services too."