Downtown sidewalks crowded with visitors on a quiet Sunday afternoon erupted into chaos after a local man exchanged gunfire with Hot Springs police, injuring one officer, before he was shot multiple times, according to witnesses at the scene and statements from police.
Witnesses told The Sentinel-Record the man, later identified as Jonathan Allen Scott, 31, of Hot Springs, was seen walking along Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park, which was crowded with tourists, "pumping a gun," and some people took refuge in a closet in one of the historic bath houses after the gunfire began.
Several callers reported seeing Scott walking in the 300 block of Central "causing a disturbance and threatening bystanders," police said in a release late Sunday. Other callers reported seeing the man with "some type of long gun."
Central Avenue, which would normally be thick with traffic during the busy tourism season, was blocked for hours around the shooting, which occurred in the national park between the Lamar Bath House, where the Bathhouse Row Emporium is located, and the Administration Building, at the south end of the Row.
Officers responded to the 500 block of Central Avenue around 12:30 p.m. to a 911 call concerning a disorderly subject in the downtown area with a firearm. Once at the scene, they approached Scott on Bathhouse Row and Hot Springs police Officer 1st Class Johnathan Smith was reportedly shot twice. It was not clear Sunday whether Smith fired at the man.
Officers at scene, who have not been identified, exchanged gunfire with Scott, who was shot "multiple times," as other officers rushed the scene, one witness said and police confirmed in a news release.
Shell casings were visible in the street and a gun could be seen on the sidewalk near the suspect.
Smith was is in stable condition Sunday evening and was later treated and released from the hospital, police said.
"We appreciate everyone's continued thoughts and prayers," the post said.
Scott was transported to a local hospital where he was listed in critical condition, police said in the release. The Hot Springs Police Department was later joined at the scene by the National Park Service, the Garland County Sheriff's Department, Arkansas State Police, the Hot Springs Fire Department, and LifeNet.
The Arkansas State Police and Garland County Sheriff's Department have assumed the investigation. As per department policy, the officers involved will be placed on administrative leave with pay, the release said.
"I was at the stoplight by (Diablos Tacos & Mezcal, 528 Central) in my car and I just kept hearing the police officers and they were running in front of my car. I thought somebody got ran over but obviously, they didn't. All of a sudden, I looked and they (officers and the suspect) were just shooting at each other. It happened so quick. I didn't see the man but about five police officers had their weapons drawn and shot about six times," said Nina Gordon, of Hot Springs.
A man who declined to provide his name said that his daughter reportedly texted him that she and about 15 other people hid in a closet inside a bath house when they first heard the shots ring out. Other witnesses in the area claim they saw the man walking downtown prior to the incident "pumping a gun."
"We were over yonder at Adair Park and I look up and this white man with fuzzy hair and eyeballs looking both ways he was pumping a gun. When that happened, I took the kids and we went and hid behind a brick wall. A while later, we heard about half a dozen gunshots. When we saw the cops we knew it was safe so we started walking again and saw two cops standing next to a body," said Crystal Eskine, of Louisiana.
One Hot Springs woman was enjoying Sunday brunch at Diablos Tacos & Mezcal along with several other people when the shooting occurred. She said it was so chaotic that she was fearful the shooter was inside the restaurant with her.
"We were eating (at Diablos) and we heard something, I couldn't identify it, and then I saw people running. People had a baby and they were running up the streets and then we heard a lot of gunshots. It sounded like it was right here. ... We just ran. I thought (my husband) may have been shot because we didn't know if the person was inside it was so loud. Later, we heard he was walking down the street with a shotgun and the police approached," said Tasha Hoag, of Hot Springs.
"People started running in (from the patio) and we just started running and there were still gunshots. My husband stayed out there (in the dining area) and I was on the back corner with a whole bunch of people. That was horrible. I could not believe that was actually happening. We see it on TV but I couldn't believe it was happening here."
Hot Springs police Sgt. Joey Williams said traffic was being diverted to West Mountain, Exchange Street, and through Gulpha Gorge. Pedestrian traffic was redirected up Court Street on to Exchange Street. Both the sidewalks in that area of the downtown historic district, on the west side of Central Avenue, and Hot Springs National Park on the east side of Central were closed.
Police were reportedly in the area for several hours after the shooting interviewing witnesses and examining the scene.
"We are asking that the public avoid the area until further notice. We also ask that if anyone has video or was a witness, to please contact the Garland County Sheriff's Department at 501-622-3660," police posted on Facebook.
"We appreciate everyone's patience and prayers in this situation."
"This is just the atmosphere we live in now. We've allowed people to have guns so we have to assume everybody is armed," said Basil Hoag, of Hot Springs, who was also eating at Diablos.
Local on 07/29/2019
Print Headline: Hot Springs police officer shot; gunman injured