Whitaker sentenced to 5 years in prison
By Scott Loftis
A former Green Forest resident who was arrested in August 2019 after allegedly threatening to commit a mass shooting at the Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse has been sentenced to five years in prison after making a plea deal with prosecutors.
Dennis Lee Whitaker, 45, was arrested on Aug. 29, 2019, after a standoff at his home in Green Forest involving officers from the Tri-City Special Response Team. During the standoff, Whitaker allegedly threatened to “blow himself up,” according to a news release issued by the Green Forest Police Department after his arrest.
Authorities had been actively searching for Whitaker after he allegedly threatened to commit a mass shooting and then kill himself on Aug. 26, 2019, at the Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville. According to an affidavit written by Deputy Kenen Martinez of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, a county dispatcher received a tip that “Whitaker 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.”
Whitaker originally was arrested in April 2019 on charges of terroristic threatening and violating an order of protection. In a probable cause affidavit filed on Jan. 2, 2019, 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, the affidavit said.
“It is orange and square with wires coming out of it,” the woman told Knight, according to the affidavit.
Under the terms of his agreement with prosecutors, Whitaker pleaded guilty to felony charges of possession of firearms by certain persons and two counts of terroristic threatening, as well as misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a minor, disorderly conduct and violation of an order of protection.
Prosecutors agreed to nolle pros felony charges of making a terroristic threat and aggravated assault. Nolle prosequi is a legal term meaning that prosecutors no longer intend to pursue charges against a defendant. It is not an acquittal, and prosecutors can decide to pursue charges later.
Prosecutors also agreed to recommend that Whitaker be sentenced to 10 years in prison, with five years suspended, and that Whitaker be given credit for 483 days served in the Carroll County Detention Center. Whitaker also must pay a total of $1,315 in court costs and fines.
Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Whitaker on Monday, Dec. 14.