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Arkansas sheriff's deputy, suspect killed in gunfire in Stone County

Officer slain as he answered disturbance call, reports say by Bill Bowden, Stephen Simpson | July 19, 2019 at 7:09 a.m.
Stone County sheriff’s deputies and Arkansas State Police investigators gather evidence Thursday in a rural area of the county where Sgt. Mike Stephen of the Stone County sheriff’s office was killed after responding to a call. More photos are available at

MOUNTAIN VIEW — A Stone County sheriff’s deputy was among two people killed in a shooting Thursday morning, according to the Arkansas State Police. A third person was wounded, authorities said.

On Thursday, Sgt. Mike Stephen, 56, of Pineville, became the first officer with the Stone County sheriff’s office to be killed in the line of duty, Chief Deputy Zach Alexander said at a news conference that afternoon in Mountain View.

Alexander said Stephen had been in law enforcement for 20 years and was an Army veteran.

“He led by the front,” Alexander said. “He wanted to be the first one in and the last one out. He was an extraordinary leader.”

Alexander said he had talked to Stephen earlier Thursday morning.

“He said, ‘Hey chief, I hope you have a good day and I love you,’” Alexander said.

The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division has been asked to investigate the shooting.

Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the state police, said the sheriff’s office received a call at 8:02 a.m. regarding a domestic disturbance in rural southwest Stone County, and Stephen got to the residence 37 minutes later.

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“As he approached the house, he encountered a female he began talking to,” Sadler said. “In short order, gunfire erupted, and Deputy Stephen was killed at the scene.”

Sadler said the suspect also was killed in the gunfire. He didn’t say whether Stephen had returned fire.

The woman was injured and taken to a hospital. She was being questioned by police Thursday afternoon. Her name, and the name of the other victim, weren’t released as of Thursday afternoon.

The bodies are being sent to the state Crime Laboratory in Little Rock.

“The state of Arkansas has a heavy heart today,” Sadler said. “All too often now we are getting calls that are resulting in the deaths of law enforcement officers. There is no routine call in law enforcement, but what happened this morning began as routine as you can get.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson ordered flags to be flown at half-staff through the day of Stephen’s interment.

“It was heartbreaking to hear that Stone County Sheriff ’s Deputy Mike Stephen was killed in the line of duty today,” Hutchinson said. “Deputy Stephen’s death is a somber reminder that our law-enforcement officers risk their lives every day to protect ours. I am grateful for the men and women who willingly put their safety on the line every time they put on the uniform.”

Members of the Stone County Honor Guard lowered the courthouse flags to half-staff before a news conference began at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Dozens of people gathered around a gazebo in front of the courthouse. Others watched from storefronts as state police vehicles moved along Main Street.

Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, said she was good friends with Stephen.

“I’m shocked by this,” she said. “This just doesn’t happen. I know people always say that, but Stone County is just such a tight-knit community.”

Irvin said Stephen was the fire chief in Pineville, just across the county line in Izard County.

“He was an incredible man,” she said. “He was a lifelong law enforcement officer. … Everybody loved him.”

Irvin said Stephen had gone to the Capitol in Little Rock to testify on issues involving law enforcement.

“It never stopped for him,” said Irvin. “It was a lifelong passion 24/7. It didn’t stop at the Stone County sheriff’s office. He was always trying to protect the community and the people he served. He used his expertise and he just helped everyone he could to make sure the public was protected. He was a wonderful man and a wonderful family man.”

According to his Facebook page, Stephen was a former human-resources manager, unit training supervisor and field sergeant at the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Dina Tyler, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, confirmed that Stephen worked at the state’s North Central Unit in Calico Rock until December 2016.

Stephen was also former senior team leader at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, former sergeant first class E-7 in the U.S. Army and former sergeant at the Mountain View Police Department, according to his Facebook page.

Stephen was from Dolph in Izard County and went to Calico Rock High School. At the age of 16, he joined his father on the Calico Rock Fire Department, according to a 2016 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette .

In 2005, Stephen moved to Pineville and joined the Pineville Volunteer Fire Department, according to the article. The next year, he became chief.

“We have three fully equipped fire engines with hoses and water tanks, plus three tanker trucks and three rescue vehicles with medical equipment and the Jaws of Life,” Stephen said in 2016.

The Fire Department responds to about 135 calls per year, according to the 2016 article. That includes assisting Calico Rock, Rodney and other departments.

“We respond to up to 15 structure fires a year,” Stephen said, “plus about 15 brush fires and 20 or so car accidents. The rest are medical emergencies.”

In 2016, the Pineville Fire Department had 27 firefighters ages 18-75, and 10 were women.

Stephen’s wife, Susan; their son Jacob; and Stephen’s father, Joe, were Pineville firefighters, according to the 2016 article. His father is also mayor of Pineville.

When a call came into the Stephen house, they dropped everything and went, according to the article.

“People ask why we do this for free,” Susan Stephen said in 2016. “If we don’t do it, who will? The ambulance may be a half-hour away. Who is going to go help out? I’d want someone to go help my family.”

In January 2018, Mike Stephen, as a firefighter, responded to a two-vehicle accident in Baxter County to discover that his son Joseph, 25, had died in the crash, according to a report by KARK, the NBC television station in Little Rock.

A state trooper broke the news.

"There was a ball of officers, and we just all kneeled down and prayed,” Stephen told KARK.

Photo by Thomas Metthe
People listen to Chief Deputy Zach Alexander with the Stone County sheriff’s office during a news conference Thursday at the courthouse in Mountain View regarding the shooting that left Sgt. Mike Stephen and a suspect dead.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Stone County Sheriff's Department chief deputy Zach Alexander (left) talks about Stone County deputy, Mike Stephen, during a press conference on Thursday, July 19, 2019, at the Stone County Courthouse in Mountain View.
Photo by Staton Breidenthal
Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, is shown in this file photo.
A map showing the location of the Stone County shooting.

Print Headline: Arkansas sheriff's deputy, suspect killed in gunfire in Stone County


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