GF man allegedly threatened mass shooting at courthouse
By Scott Loftis
Editor's Note: This story was published in the Aug. 30 Weekend edition of Carroll County News. Dennis Lee Whitaker has been arrested and was being held in the Carroll County Detention Center as of Tuesday, Sept. 3.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office is actively searching for a man who allegedly threatened a mass shooting Monday at the Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville, Sheriff Jim Ross and Chief Deputy Maj. Jerry Williams confirmed Tuesday.
Court documents identify the man as Dennis Lee Whitaker of Green Forest.
In an affidavit filed Monday in Carroll County Circuit Court, CCSO deputy Kenen Martinez writes that county dispatchers received a tip that “Whittaker had stated he was planning to bring a gun to the circuit court house in Berryville and kill the people inside as well as himself to make a statement.”
Martinez writes that he learned the reporting party was an employee of a bail bonding company. He met with the woman, Martinez writes, and she told him that she and another employee had gone to Missouri on Sunday, Aug. 18, to arrest Whitaker on a failure to appear warrant and bring him back to Carroll County to surrender a bond on Whitaker from another case.
“Dennis at that time informed (the bondswoman) that he was not going back to jail and it was his intention to commit suicide by law enforcement officer,” Martinez writes.
The bondswoman determined it was not safe to arrest Whitaker and returned to Arkansas, the affidavit says. Instead, she contacted Whitaker’s mother by telephone and made arrangements for Whitaker to appear in court on Monday, Aug. 19. The bondswoman waited for Whitaker but he never appeared in the courtroom that day, according to the affidavit.
The bondswoman contacted Whitaker’s mother again, Martinez writes, and the mother said she and Whitaker had returned to Missouri after she discovered that he was carrying a firearm.
The bondswoman then spoke to Whitaker, and he “reiterated, he was not going to be returning to jail,” Martinez writes in the affidavit.
The bondswoman spoke to Whitaker about coming to court on Monday, Aug. 26, “but he stated that he intended to kill the personnel inside and then himself to send a statement about alleged mistreatment in Carroll County in regards to the August 19th 2019 incident,” the affidavit says.
Whitaker was arrested in April on charges of terroristic threatening and violating an order of protection. In a probable cause affidavit filed on Jan. 2, CCSO deputy Nathan Knight writes that Whitaker allegedly threatened to burn down the homes of his former girlfriend and her family members. When Knight interviewed the woman, she told him that Whitaker owned several guns and that she had seen a bomb in his possession approximately a year earlier.
“It is orange and square with wires coming out of it,” the woman told Knight, according to the affidavit.
Whitaker was arrested and booked into the Carroll County Detention Center on April 15, records indicate. He was released on a $50,000 bond on May 1, but failed to appear for a May 6 arraignment. A warrant for his arrested was issued on May 8.
Ross said Tuesday that he’s confident Whitaker will be located and arrested. His comments came after a meeting of the Carroll County Quorum Court’s budget committee. Among the topics discussed at the meeting was the potential creation of an additional deputy’s position that would be dedicated to courthouse security.
“We’ll get him, because we’ve already got a warrant,” Ross said.