The Fort Smith Police Department has placed eight officers involved in Wednesday evening's convenience store shooting on paid administrative leave while the department conducts an internal investigation of the incident.
The eight officers who have been placed on administrative leave are three who fired their weapons in the incident and five who witnessed the officers fire the shots. The shooting involved officers firing shots at Matthew Pittman, 19, of Fort Smith, who police said rammed his car into vehicles and tried to run over an officer after Fort Smith police tried to arrest him on a felony warrant on Wednesday evening in the parking lot of Pic-N-Tote, 1116 Grand Ave, Fort Smith police Cpl. Anthony Rice said.
Fort Smith police officer Jeff Lum, officer in training Thomas Brashier and an undercover officer have been placed on leave after firing their weapons. Sgt. Wayne Barnett, officer Steve Creek, officer Dylan Harris, officer in training Chelsey Garrett and an undercover officer are the witnessing officers placed on administrative leave, according to Rice.
“The point of administrative leave, I firmly believe, is to make sure these officers are cleared before they come back to duty, make sure there’s no wrongdoing, to make sure that they have the counseling and stuff that they need once an event like this occurs," Rice said.
The officers who discharged their weapons in the incident "fired at Mr. Pittman and hit him several times" because of "the danger of what was involved," Rice said at the scene of the incident Wednesday evening. Rice declined to say how many shots were fired at Pittman or which officer Pittman allegedly tried to run over.
Pittman was transported to an area hospital. He was in stable condition and in custody following the shooting, Rice said.
Rice said the length of the investigation will determine the amount of time the officers are on administrative leave. He was unable to give an estimated timeline for the investigation Thursday.
With the eight officers on administrative leave, the Police Department now has a force of 131. Rice said he and others at the Police Department are concerned about call response time because of the shortage of officers.
Rice said the Police Department will "make the necessary adjustments" to compensate for the eight officers. He said the Police Department's supervising staff is going to "probably pay overtime" to on-duty staff while the officers are on administrative leave.