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The Insider, Aug. 12


Update: Towers sniper

The Little Rock Housing Authority has been heard from regarding incidents in which David Jones, a neighbor of the high-rise, LRHA-run Parris Towers at 18th and Broadway, had his car, pets and even himself sniped at by someone in the building with a high-powered pellet gun.

As we related last week, Jones' 1977 Ferrari 308 has been peppered with lead pellets all summer, denting the body work, chipping the paint, and breaking one window. The culprit also shot Jones' dog, Kodi Bear, and has been bold enough to plug away at Jones himself as he worked in the back yard of his house. Jones managed to catch a few seconds of video of the sniper, who leaned from the window of a seventh floor laundry room and capped off a few shots with a black pistol before disappearing back inside. The video resolution was not high enough to identify the person.

Our story apparently didn't deter the shooter. In a posting on the Arkansas Blog, Jones said three days after our story ran, he was trying to do paint and bodywork on his car when the sniper shot at him again, missing his head by a foot and almost managing to shoot out the rear window of the car.

"Divot #128 to add to the list of repairs," Jones wrote. "Yes, I said one hundred and twenty eight shots at the car ... I am at a loss, as my car and house are under constant attack, my dog is scarred from being hit by a rain of pellets, and each new day brings no relief." In the same post, Jones said he has been contacted by residents of Parris Towers who claim that some there know who is doing the shooting, but won't come forward for fear of retaliation from the shooter and the LRHA. When our story went to press Aug. 3, several calls to the Little Rock Housing Authority had gone unreturned. In a letter faxed to the Times Aug. 10, LRHA executive director Shelly Ehenger said they are working to catch the culprit. Ehenger said rentals at the 250-apartment Parris Towers are restricted to those 50 years and older, except for five tenants who have lived there since before LRHA requested the age restriction from Housing and Urban Development. She said all applicants are screened for criminal and prior rental history.

Ehenger added that there have been several actions taken by LRHA at Parris Towers in response to the pellet sniping, including hiring an additional security guard, securing the window of the seventh floor laundry room where Jones caught video of the shooter leaning out before taking a shot, and posting a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the sniper. This is in addition to the $500 David Jones said he'd pay for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter. Police said detectives are working on the case, but have no arrests to report. People with information can call detectives at 371-4660.

Jesus wept

North Little Rock Alderman Beth White says her Christian prayer before the opening of business Monday night of the City Council was not in violation of the city's agreement with the ACLU.

The Arkansas chapter of the ACLU asked North Little Rock to end its unconstitutional practice of opening council meetings with sectarian prayer. The ACLU issued a statement in July that the city would include a statement on its meeting agenda that the prayers given during council meetings reflected only the personal faith of the speaker and were not intended to proselytize.

The city also agreed to rotate prayers to include other faiths, according to the ACLU statement, but White said she wasn't aware of an agreement to rotate prayers. The ACLU restated its belief that ending the practice of prayer was the best way the city could avoid promoting one religion over another.

White said she was just praying for herself. "I am praying as Beth White as opposed to praying for everybody."

Holly Dickson, the ACLU lawyer who issued the statement, said if the city continues to offer Christian prayer to the exclusion of other faiths "we'll have to respond." She said that some aldermen were receptive to the idea that such prayer is "not just illegal, but bad practice" and disrespectful of the people of North Little Rock.

Gone fishing

Mayor Mark Stodola and Vice Mayor Gene Fortson took off on a Canadian fishing trip last Wednesday, shortly after Stodola announced for re-election. They returned Sunday.

No public announcement of their travel was made because, both men said, the trip was strictly social and no business was discussed while they fished for walleye on a lake north The fishing? Good, said Fortson. The mayor said he caught a 26-inch walleye. Didn't eat it. It's catch and release.

Interrupted programming

Fans of KABF, the community radio station founded by Acorn that is struggling to survive, says the station didn't broadcast a signal for several hours Monday night, but it was on the air Tuesday morning. So far we've been unable to reach a station spokesman on the station's operational status.

Hog watch

Insiders continue to insist news is coming soon from University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long on a new fund-raising drive for Razorback athletics. Fans will be watching closely to see if that means higher prices for preferred seating at football games this fall. UA prices generally are much lower than those elsewhere in the SEC.

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