New details: Driver fleeing from police apparently committed suicide
A Green Forest man who died after being pursued by law enforcement officers on May 16 apparently committed suicide, the Carroll County Sheriff's Office said Monday.
CCSO Chief Deputy Maj. George Frye said the sheriff's office is investigating the incident after the Arkansas State Police declined a request from Carroll County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Rogers to handle the investigation. Frye said the ASP will provide an investigator to assist the CCSO if needed.
According to Frye, the incident began when a Green Forest police officer in a K-9 unit initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Ryan Ely, 21, of Green Forest. Frye said Eli initially stopped his vehicle but then fled the scene with the Green Forest officer in pursuit.
Because the Green Forest officer's dog was not secured in the vehicle, Frye said the Green Forest officer asked a CCSO deputy to assume responsibility for the pursuit. The Green Forest officer continued to follow at a slower speed.
Frye said the pursuit lasted about 15 minutes, reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. He said CCSO deputies observed Eli throwing something from the window of his vehicle, although no item was recovered. The CCSO deputies slowed their pursuit after Eli displayed a handgun outside his window, Frye said.
Eventually, Eli drove slowly into a fence along Arkansas Highway 311 and came to a stop, Frye said. When he did not respond to deputies' commands, Frye said they approached the vehicle and discovered Eli inside, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Frye said the state medical examiner will determine the cause and manner of Eli's death.
"To be clear, no officers or deputies discharged a weapon at any time," Frye said.
Green Forest police chief John Bailey said the initial stop was for "minor traffic offenses." Bailey said the officer explained to Eli that he would walk the K-9 around the vehicle and went back to his car to retrieve the dog. As soon as the officer connected the dog's leash, Bailey said, Eli fled.
"What's sad about this whole thing ... even I would like to know why. We don't have any answers. Hopefully, the investigation will reveal one of two things: Was it accidental or intentional?"