Accused Walmart shooter struggled to find work, no violent history in St. Francis County

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FORREST CITY, Ark. — As Arkansas State Police investigate Monday’s shooting inside the Forrest City Walmart, attention is turning to the man police say is at the center of it all.

Bobby Gibbs, 40, is accused of threatening to blow up Walmart while inside the store Monday morning.

When officers approached him just before 10:30 a.m., they say he opened fire, shooting and wounding Lt. Eric Varner and Det. Eugene Watlington. Authorities said the officers returned fire, killing Gibbs.

St. Francis County Sheriff Bobby May said Gibbs had a “lengthy” criminal record, including drug offenses. But May said there was nothing in Gibbs’ record even approaching violence.

In 2012, he was arrested after refusing to turn down his music. During that arrest, officers discovered a gun that was reported stolen.

In recent years, Gibbs’ cousin, Anna Jones, said Gibbs struggled to find work and moved in with her.

“He trying to get work,” Jones said. “They don’t give him no help. He ain’t got nowhere to live.”

In a 2017 divorce decree WREG obtained, his then-wife accused him of rendering her life intolerable. The decree orders him to pay $50 per week in child support for the couple’s one son.

Jones refuses to believe what police are saying about the shooting.

“He was just at Walmart getting him something to eat, so why they didn’t let him get him something to eat and come out of there?” she said. “He ain’t bother nobody. They ain’t gonna tell that lie on him like that.”

In Gibbs’ former neighborhood, a man living next door said Gibbs was more likely to be found shooting hoops with the neighborhood children than shooting a gun.

“He’s a real father figure to everybody in this neighborhood, embraced everybody, you know, was a real great person,” the neighbor said. “You would never think that this type of thing would happen.”

“I would like to know what was really going on because Bobby Joe Gibbs don’t bother nobody — nobody,” Jones said.

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