Two Forrest City officers shot, suspect dead in Walmart shooting

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Two police officers are shot at a Walmart in Arkansas. (Photo provided by WREG)

FORREST CITY, Ark. — Two Forrest City officers were shot and one suspect was killed Monday morning after a shooting in a Walmart.

Sources at the Forrest City Police Department identified the suspect as 40-year-old Bobby Gibbs and said he was dead.

According to the Forrest City Police Department, Lt. Eric Varner and Detective Eugene Watlington were called to the store at 10:24 a.m. after Gibbs began making threats, saying he was going to blow up the Walmart. He was approached by the officers and that’s when the suspect reportedly opened fire, striking both.

“We was at the register, and all we know is we’re hearing gun shots and everyone just started running,” said Jaleshia Hill, who was in the store at the time. “It was a very, very terrifying moment.”

Watlington was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis for treatment and undergoing treatment as of 1:30 p.m. He’s expected to be okay.

Varner was taken to a local hospital. He too is expected to be okay.

WREG spoke to Lt. Eric Varner for a story in 2019.

“It’s due to their heroicism and quick response that no civilians were injured,” Forrest City Mayor Cedric Williams said in a news conference. “The quick response of our officers truly saved a lot of lives today.”

Sandy Bannister said he ran to the store after receiving a phone call from his panicked mom, who is a Walmart employee.

“It’s scary waking up and your mom us on the phone, you don’t know if she’s shot or not, she’s hyperventilating, I was just scared,” Bannister said. “Nobody deserves to go through that.”

The Forrest City Police Department and the St. Francis Sheriff’s Office both made the scene. They blocked off the street adjacent to the store along with the store itself.

Arkansas State Police have taken over the investigation, Williams said.

Forrest City Schools were placed on lockdown during the incident and investigation, according to the school district’s social media.

Walmart released a statement saying, “We are aware of the incident that took place at our store in Forrest City, AR this morning.  We will continue to work with the Forrest City Police Department to assist in their investigation. As this is an active investigation, any additional questions should be referred to the Forrest City Police Department.”

Officers said the suspect, Gibbs, had been on their radar.

“The suspect is known,” Forrest City Police Chief Deon Lee said. “I’m going to leave it at that right now. But nothing in his history would suggest that anything like this would happen.”

The mayor’s office mourned the loss of life, while lauding the bravery of the first responders.

“The officers did their job,” Mayor Cedric Williams said. “With the officers’ bravery and quick response, many lives were saved today.”

One person was injured in a shooting at a Walmart in Memphis last week. Two people were killed and an officer injured in a shooting at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi in July 2019.

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