The Pulaski County man who killed a volunteer firefighter who was coming to his rescue apologized to friends and family of 29-year-old Ronald Jason Adams as he accepted an eight-year prison term for manslaughter Thursday.
The sentence, negotiated by attorney Hubert Alexander, is two years short of the 10-year maximum and cannot be appealed.
Mark Eugene Pruitt, wearing an orange jail uniform, said he hoped that Adams' family would be comforted by his decision to plead guilty and go to prison.
"I'd like to apologize from the bottom of my heart," the tearful Pruitt said, turning to face them. "This is the only way I know how to pay for it ... is to do my time."
But when the 49-year-old Pruitt started to talk about his own suffering -- "I've had some hard times, too" -- Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims cut him off and sent him back to the courthouse lockup two floors below.
Adams was engaged to be married when he was killed. Aside from his volunteer work, he was also a lieutenant with the Sherwood Fire Department.
His slaying prompted Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services of Little Rock, which provides ambulance service in central Arkansas, to purchase ballistic vests for its medics.
Adams had been dispatched to Pruitt's Dortch Loop home in January 2016 after Pruitt's wife called 911 to report her husband was having a seizure.
Dispatchers sent Adams, with the East Pulaski Volunteer Fire Department, because he lived in the area with his fiancee and was the closest emergency medical technician available.
Adams was wearing his department-approved jacket and carrying his first-aid kit when Pruitt's wife let him into the house and directed him to their bedroom, chief deputy prosecutor John Johnson told the judge.
Pruitt shot Adams multiple times, killing him at the scene.
Emergency room doctors who later examined Pruitt found a high level of cocaine in his blood although he had denied using the drug, the prosecutor said.
Pruitt, a self-employed car dealer, later told doctors at the State Hospital that the shooting was an accident brought on when he was awakened in bed to see a stranger walking down the hall toward him.
Pruitt said then that what he remembered wasn't firing the gun, but just seeing the muzzle flashes, then hearing his wife tell him what he'd done.
He tried to walk but tripped and fell, hitting his head, Pruitt said.
Pruitt made bail and was released within a day of his arrest, but the judge ordered him back to jail after learning in October that sheriff's deputies had twice been called to the Pruitt home over a 15-hour span in September because he was claiming to see and hear people who weren't there.
Described in police reports as "agitated and anxious," he talked on the first visit by deputies about shooting people and how he had previously shot a fireman.
Officers returned when he called 911 himself to report strangers were on his property and that he had a gun while watching them. A deputy found him leaning on a fence staring at something only he could see at his neighbor's workshop.
An unloaded pistol was found on the ground near him, and he got upset and demanded that the deputies leave when they told him they could not see the people he did, according to police reports.
He also talked about shooting a firefighter in that encounter, which ended with deputies restraining him so paramedics could inject him with anti-anxiety medication to get him into an ambulance that took him to the State Hospital, where he spent about a week.
Doctors attributed his problems to his drug abuse, court filings show.
Metro on 03/31/2017
Print Headline: Fireman's killer gets 8 years, apologizes