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Judge opts not to increase bail for man charged in officer's death

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published February 13, 2013 at 10:21 a.m. Updated February 13, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.

barry-strickland-left-stands-with-his-attorney-frank-shaw-while-shaw-addresses-stricklands-family-and-friends-after-a-hearing-wednesday

Barry Strickland, left, stands with his attorney, Frank Shaw, while Shaw addresses Strickland's family and friends after a hearing Wednesday.

Bail not raised for man charged in officer's death

A Faulkner County judge on Wednesday declined to increase the bail amount for a driver accused of fatally hitting a police officer with a Jeep. (By Gavin Lesnick)
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— A judge has decided not to raise the bail for a man charged with fatally striking a Conway police officer with a vehicle, allowing him to continue to be free pending trial.

Prosecutors had asked a judge to increase the bond for Barry Strickland because it was set at $150,000 before Officer William McGary died from his injuries. In a hearing Wednesday, the state said his subsequent death and other factors that came up in the investigation, including social media postings from Strickland indicating possible prescription drug abuse, warranted the increase in bond.

But defense attorney Frank Shaw successfully argued that because the charge against Strickland hadn't changed, he should not have his bail increased.

Faulkner County Circuit Judge Charles Clawson ultimately agreed, noting the first-degree battery charge considered in the first bond hearing is "exactly the same" now as it was then.

Clawson did order some new conditions including Strickland be subject to random drug-testing, not operate any motor vehicle, give his medical records to the state and live at his parents' Bald Knob home.

Strickland didn't speak during the hearing and only briefly afterward when asked by a reporter if he had anything to say to the family of the fallen officer.

"We're still praying for the McGary family," he said.

An Arkansas State Police investigator testified during the hearing that prescription drugs were found in Strickland's Jeep after the accident, including some that were not in the right prescription bottle. Special Investigator Jason Travis said there were indications Strickland was intoxicated, though a formal blood test is still pending.

Travis said he also took as evidence social media postings Strickland made on his Twitter and Facebook pages, including one on the day of the accident that referenced getting "higher than a church steeple." Another posting reportedly featured a photo of prescription pills.

Shaw suggested in his questioning that Strickland was only taking medication prescribed to him for post-traumatic stress disorder he developed while serving in the military in Iraq.

Deputy prosecutor Troy Braswell said the online postings were "not the actions of a hero, but of someone who manifests extreme indifference to the value of human life."

"This is not an accident," Braswell said. "He knew the impact these drugs had on his body and he chose to take them."

McGary was directing traffic on Dave Ward Drive on Jan. 31 when he was struck by Strickland's Jeep. Travis said McGary landed on his head after being thrown more than 60 feet by the impact. He died at a Little Rock hospital the next day.

Strickland was released on bond Friday and earlier this week waived his arraignment, filing an innocent plea rather than making it in court.

More than 50 of Strickland's family and friends attended the hearing, where they were sworn in as witnesses and then ordered to wait in another room until each one testified. Shaw indicated they were prepared to take the stand but Clawson ruled against the increase in bond, making the testimony unnecessary.

The next hearing in the case is set for May 1.

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