LITTLE ROCK (KTHV) - After a shoot-out earlier this week between two bail bondsman from Louisiana and a suspect they tracked to West Little Rock, Today's THV takes a closer look at the powers of bail bondsmen.
You may recall, on Monday night, we told you about a shoot-out in a busy part of West Little Rock between two bail bondsmen from Louisiana and a suspect they were after. Police say the suspect fired first and the bail bondsmen shot back. Nobody was hurt but a bystander's car took a bullet. Police later released the bail bondsmen with no charges.
THV's Max Seigle is following up this story for us and talked with some Arkansas bail bondsmen Friday about what happened Monday night. Since they were not there themselves Monday night, they don't want to criticize the Louisiana bail bondsmen. But their spokesman told us if it had been them in the field that night, they wouldn't have fired shots in such a public place.
Like hotels along the Las Vegas Strip, bail bonding companies line West Roosevelt Road near the Pulaski County Detention Center. Inside City Bail Bonds Inc., we find bail-bondsmen David Viele working with colleagues. He's a 10-year veteran of the field, going well beyond the desk.
"I've probably been out the last ten days in a row looking for people, we don't always get them but we'll keep looking," Viele said.
Viele will often join fellow bail bondsmen on hunts for clients who've skipped out on court. They can carry weapons under concealed carry laws but refrain from firing, especially in public.
"I just can't imagine that, to me that's when you disengage and find another day to find the guy you're looking for," Viele said.
Viele says, like cops, a bail bondsman could fire under immediate deadly force danger. They can also forcibly enter a home but not right away.
"It's when we know the suspect is in the house and he will not answer the door and that happens occasionally," Viele said. "When we hit a house it's much like SWAT, we cover the back, the sides and the windows and then we have an entry team."
Viele says usually in those cases, the suspect surrenders. But before they even start, they must contact police.
"Every time we are in an area where an apprehension could take place we've got to phone local law enforcement," Viele said.
It's part of the protocol for these guys who can cross state lines pursuing suspects. And bring them back to Roosevelt Road with a first stop at the jail.
Viele also told me when clients enter into a contract with a bail bondsman they're authorizing forced entry into a home or car if found on the run.
As for firing his weapon on the hunt, Viele says he's never done it and only knows of two cases in Arkansas over the past decade where shots rang out. One of them was this past Monday's incident in West Little Rock on Bowman Road.
Viele says bail bondsmen are not the same as bounty hunters. In fact, he says that bounty hunters are illegal in Arkansas. You have to be a licensed bail bondsmen to go after suspects like Viele does.
Viele adds, while shootings are rare, bail bondsmen go through firearms training as part of concealed carry permits. They also do regular target practice.