by David Koon
LRPD spokesperson Sgt. Cassandra Davis said that Michael Sadler, 58, was coming out of the Asher One Stop convenience store, at Asher and Maple, just after 11:30 this morning when a 14-year-old boy identified as Michael Stanley snatched his wallet and fled on a bicycle. Davis said Sadler pursued the boy in his van, veered off the road, and struck him about two blocks south of the store.
Davis said police are investigating reports that Sadler then got out of the van and assaulted the boy as he lay on the ground. The boy was later taken to Arkansas Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:28 p.m. Davis said the boy's mother lives on W. 23rd Street in Little Rock. A woman at the scene was crying, "My baby," as neighbors erected a small cross in his memory where he fell.
Sgt. Davis said detectives are currently questioning Sadler. "I don't know what charges, if any, he'll have," Davis said, "but it could be a homicide, manslaughter [or] negligent homicide. It just ranges by what the detectives feel comfortable changing him with, if anything at all."
Davis said before the charge was filed that if the theft had occurred in Sadler's home, he would have been within his rights to protect himself. Given that the crime happened outside, however, he faced more scrutiny. "He got in his van and chased him down," Davis said. "You can't chase somebody down. We suggest you just get as much information as you can and notify law enforcement."
A neighborhood resident, who spoke to our photographer Brian Chilson, described the chase. He said the boy was riding up a hill on a vacant lot near the store. The van driver jumped the curb and followed him across the lot and struck him near the top of the small hill, knocking the bike to the ground. According to him, the driver then beat the boy. He was among those placing the cross you see in the photograph above.
UPDATE II: The lot at 27th and Oak where Michael Stanley was run over is weedy, and seeded with glass. By 4 p.m. this afternoon, there was no one there, though someone had left behind a homemade cross and a blue teddy bear at the crest of a low hill in the middle of the lot where it happened. A gutted TV set sat nearby.
Next door, at the Asher One Stop, a crowd had gathered. When I asked the man behind the counter if he was willing to talk about what happened outside today, he pointed up at a big-screen TV hung high on the wall. "There's what happened," he said. "Watch."
On the screen were three panes of a grainy surveillance feed with a timer at the bottom, the minutes and seconds of that morning ticking past. Almost everyone in the store was looking up at it, waiting for the van. A woman who came in said: "This is where that happened?" then joined us to stare up at the screen.
A man in a black do-rag standing in front of me spoke to a woman standing beside him. "I saw Lil' Mike riding his bike out here in the parking lot this morning," he told her. When I asked him if he knew Michael Stanley, he scowled, glancing down at my press tag, and said: "Yeah, but I ain't talking to you about it." It's the way it often is in neighborhoods like the one around 27th and Oak when something terrible happens: Lots of people know a little something, maybe even enough to make some sense out of it if you could put it all together somehow, but no one is talking. Instead, we stood, and watched the screen, and waited for the van, which may have already come and gone for all any of us knew.
After five minutes, the clock on the screen ticking past 11:35 a.m. — the time when the first 911 calls reportedly came in to the LRPD — I turned to leave. As I did, I saw that a fantastically tall black man — at least 6'10" and solidly built — in a royal blue shirt had come in. I had seen him next door at the lot, pulling up in a new, black SUV that I might have mistaken for a hearse except for the reggae music from the radio. As I watched, the man spoke to the clerk, then tried to push a wad of money into the clerk's hand, begging him to give it to any children he saw in the store who might need something. The clerk handed it back to him, saying he'd have to talk to the owner about that.
The man in blue went out onto the sidewalk. I followed him out. I soon learned his name is Jay Webb, a Little Rock native who lives in Minneapolis now, where he said he runs a holistic pharmacy and summer empowerment camps for kids. He grew up at 24th and Izard, and used to ride his bike to the State Fair and as far North as downtown. He's in Little Rock visiting his family until Saturday, and had heard about the death of Michael Stanley.
When I asked him why he was trying to give the clerk his money, Webb started to answer, saying that he didn't want kids in the neighborhood to have to resort to the theft that left one of them dead today, but his voice soon broke and he couldn't continue. We stood there together on the sidewalk as the traffic slid by on Asher, Webb looking west toward the weed lot as he wiped at his eyes.
When he could speak again, Webb said it was him who got ran over today.
"I was born here," Webb said. "I wasn't supposed to make it, but I made it, because God pulled me up. Everybody said I wasn't shit. And now kids don't even have anybody to tell them they're not shit and to encourage them. People think that money is so much — that you can beat someone to death. It's not. Two people died today. Two people died today. Not one. Two people."
"I don't know what else to do," he said, his eyes welling up again. "Just God bless them and cover them, all the kids. If you see somebody, you give them this." Then Webb tried to press a rumpled bill into my hand.