CCSO investigating missing police rifle: Fired in GF, Eureka Springs chief’s son hired by ESPD

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

By Scott Loftis

The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office is actively investigating the apparent theft of a Green Forest police rifle from an off-duty officer’s personal vehicle last summer.

Meanwhile, the officer was quickly fired by the Green Forest Police Department and hired three days later by the Eureka Springs Police Department — where his father serves as chief.

Austin Young, 23, is employed as a patrolman with ESPD. Before joining that department, he spent around one year with the Green Forest Police Department, according to Green Forest police chief John Bailey.

Young was fired from the GFPD on July 28, 2019, Bailey said — the day after Young reported that the rifle and a police radio were stolen from his car in Holiday Island.

“He had met some friends at an area known as ‘The Pier,’ and they had been drinking,” Bailey said. “He at one point felt like he was too intoxicated to drive. He had the M16 (rifle) that he did not have permission to have. Sometime overnight or early morning, his car was broken into. His issued duty weapon was not stolen, but the M16 and a police radio were taken.”

Bailey said Young, who was paid $15 an hour, was immediately placed on administrative leave. After a meeting at the Green Forest Police Department the following day, Bailey said Young was fired.

Three days later, on July 31, Young was hired by ESPD. A “Request for Personnel Action” signed by Eureka Springs Police Chief Brian Young — Austin Young’s father — indicates that Austin Young was hired on a part-time, temporary basis at $16 an hour.

Austin Young was made a full-time officer on Nov. 25 and his salary was increased to $16.50 an hour. On Feb. 17, Brian Young signed another request, increasing Austin Young’s salary to $17 an hour effective Jan. 1.

Brian Young said he had no qualms about hiring his son despite the circumstances.

“I knew everything that was going on with the investigation, so I knew he didn’t do anything illegal,” Brian Young said. “He violated the policy by not having the rifle double-locked, but there was nothing illegal in his actions.”

A Feb. 13 performance appraisal included in Austin Young’s city personnel file gives him an overall rating of 91.8 on a 100-point scale. The appraisal notes his “outstanding report writing” and ability to work well with others and by himself. The appraisal is signed by assistant police chief Brian Jones and by Brian Young.

“He’s actually been doing a fantastic job,” Brian Young said. “For lack of a better term, a greenhorn, he’s been doing very, very well — especially acclimating to our agency. Our area is a lot different than other areas you might say in the way that we handle things. He’s basically been raised his entire life here so he’s just acclimated to Eureka Springs very, very well. I am saying that as a chief’s position, not as a parent’s position, because I have to separate myself.”

Bailey said state law enforcement standards officials are still reviewing the matter and there is a possibility that Austin Young’s law enforcement certification may be stripped.

“We’ve talked to state and we haven’t heard anything back from state on that,” Brian Young said. “Actually, Green Forest requested nothing to be done on that certification and of course he’s requested a hearing with state. The state hasn’t replied back to him on any of it.”

Bailey said the Green Forest Police Department had actually filed paperwork seeking to have Austin Young’s certification stripped. He said the rifle involved in the incident was actually on loan to the department as part of a federal program involving military surplus items.

“It’s things that the military has taken out of service but offers them to law enforcement agencies,” he said. “But now, they still own them. We’re audited every year on these rifles and we have to show them that we still have them and possess them. Some of the merchandise doesn’t require that but these do. These are basically on loan. We don’t own them as a department. We’re still accountable for them.”

Maj. Jerry Williams, chief deputy for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, said the CCSO is conducting an “open, active investigation” with the help of FBI resources.

Brian Young said he would relay a reporter’s contact information to Austin Young.

“Yeah, I can pass it on,” Brian Young said. “I don’t know if he wants to, because he doesn’t want to be in the paper about anything especially with something as how all this stuff went down. Yeah, it was a violation of policy. Some people agree with it; some people don’t. But the majority don’t. Like I say, I try to stay out of it.”

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