These are the top 11 Arkansas stories of 2017
In 2017, the state of Arkansas saw many stories that were emotional for one reason or another. Our collection of the top Arkansas stories of the year will make you laugh, cry and hopefully a few will make you smile as well!
Ten Commandments monument destroyed days after installation
One day after the controversial Ten Commandments monument was unveiled at the Arkansas State Capitol, Michael Reed drove his vehicle through the statue. This was the second time Reed destroyed a Ten Commandments monument. In 2014, he destroyed a similar monument in Oklahoma.
State Senator Jason Rapert, who led the installation of the religious monument, compared Reed’s action to the shooting of U.S. Representative Steve Scalise.
Reed was found unfit for trial later in the year and was ordered to be held by the state hospital for further evaluation.
The second version of the monument has been approved to be installed by the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission. The ACLU of Arkansas plans to fight the monument in court, but Rapert claimed it should withstand any lawsuit.
Tom Brannon leaves THV11, starts new chapter of his life
Longtime anchor and Meteorologist Tom Brannon announced he would be leaving THV11 at the end of the year. He was a part of our family for nearly 22 years and left a lasting legacy that helped shape the way we deliver severe weather news to the people of Arkansas.
“I feel it’s best to try something new and I’ll be able to spend more “normal” time with my wife Leigh Ann and my daughter Sophia,” he said in his announcement.
We will miss Tom, but we’ll cherish every moment we got to spend with him at the station!
Officer Tommy Norman continues to shine with community policing, charitable work
This year was a banner year for North Little Rock Police Officer Tommy Norman. His community policing efforts were felt not only locally, but nationwide as well. Celebrities from around the country shared their support for Norman’s generosity and care for his fellow neighbors.
Although he can no longer post while he is wearing his police uniform, it hasn’t slowed his ability to make sure everyone he loves is cared for. And he ended the year right by proposing to Rosalynd in November. We can’t wait to see what 2018 holds for the pair!
Mother of four builds house by watching YouTube tutorials
At the beginning of this year, we brought you the story of the Brookins family. Cara and her four children left a domestic violence situation to start life anew, but they had no where they could call home. So, the family used tutorials on YouTube to begin building their own house. What an amazing journey for Cara and her family!
Arkansas lawmakers pass controversial enhanced concealed carry law
In March, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a controversial law which would allow concealed carry license holders to take their firearms onto college campuses and government buildings. The law, proposed by State Representative Charlie Collins, had strong opposition from state institutions, campus police and parents along the way as legislators worked to fixed language in the bill throughout the year.
When the law first passed, lawmakers quickly worked to pass a measure that wouldn’t allow those who completed the enhanced training to bring their concealed guns to a college sporting event. The measure was opposed by the National Rifle Association.
Then in December, the Arkansas Legislative Council approved rules for the law. The new law would allow college students with the enhanced carry license to bring a handgun into their dorm as long as it’s within arm’s reach. Students will not be able to store the gun and must keep it on themselves at all times.
Mass shooting at Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock
In the middle of the summer, the city of Little Rock was in shock after 25 people were shot at Power Ultra Lounge, a downtown nightclub, and three others were injured during the chaos. No one passed away from the mass shooting thanks to the quick work of first responders.
The shooting sparked several city leaders to make pledges to the citizens of Little Rock. Mayor Mark Stodola introduced a 6-step plan to reduce violence while the Little Rock Police Department introduced mandatory overtime for its officers while it tried to fill vacancies.
In October, a Moneybagg Yo concert was canceled amid concerns over safety after Stodola asked promoters and the venue to cancel the show. Chief Kenton Buckner sent a letter asking the president of iHeartMedia to allow LRPD to have input in “the number of officers” at the event to make sure it was safe.
White supremacist from Arkansas arrested in connection to violent Charlottesville rally
An Arkansas man was arrested in connection to an attack on a black man by white supremacists during the violence that took place in Charlottesville. Jacob Scott Goodwin was identified in video and pictures by an online coalition, which police later confirmed. Goodwin’s mother confirmed that he was at the rally carrying a shield and wearing tactical military gear.
Another man who was wearing a University of Arkansas shirt was at the beginning of the rally. He claimed it wasn’t about white supremacy, but was seen in a VICE news video as the group with tiki torches chanted “Jews will not replace us.”
Family highlights “demon and disease” of addiction in son’s obituary
After a Little Rock family lost their son to a long and difficult battle with addiction, they decided to be upfront and honest about the struggles they faced.
So the family wrote an obituary that they hoped would expose the demon and disease of addiction and help others struggling with their own addictions.
Riverfest comes to an end after 40 years
After 40 years of music and fun, the organizers behind Riverfest decided to put an end to the event after years of struggling to meet expectations and rising costs. Over the years, the event changed in order to match trends and demographics, but could never capitalize on what the younger crowds needed or wanted.
It’s sad to see the event go by the wayside, but we’re sure something just as amazing will take its place.
Frozen pizzas cover I-30 after tractor trailer accident
It’s not everyday that a pile of frozen pizzas could catch the eye of many Arkansans, but that was the case in August. After a tractor trailer carrying Tombstone pizzas crashed on I-30, people in the state and across the country went to social media to give their best joke related to the pizza-tastrophe.
Arkansas executes four men in seven days
Although the number of executions per year in the United States has steadily declined since 1999, Governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled the executions of eight men in 10 days in April.
The rapid succession of scheduled executions started a nationwide debate on the ethics behind lethal injections and constant battles in the courtroom for each inmate. Damien Echols, who was once on death row, returned to Arkansas to protest the executions and called the process a “conveyor belt of death.”
Of the eight men, only four were executed. Some of the men had accepted their fate, but others like Ledell Lee maintained his innocence right until he was executed. Stacey Johnson, who had his execution stayed, continues to fight for his innocence and hopes to get new DNA testing in his case.