What started as an emergency on a busy Arkansas interstate leaves one man with a new perspective on law enforcement and potentially saves another man’s life.
Matthew Evans’ first visit to Arkansas wasn’t exactly planned. In fact, it was an emergency.
“I just booked the first flight and went there with no clothes, nothing,” Matthew Evans said.
Evans, who lives in Maryland, said he got a concerning call from his brother who recently moved to Little Rock. He said his brother suffers from mental illness and he knew instantly something wasn’t right.
“I’m a man of faith. I believe in God, and I believe God called me to save him from where he was and bring him home,” Evans said.
Evans made it to Little Rock and picked up his brother. However, on the way back to the airport, Evans said his brother got upset, got out of the car, and started walking down the street.
“I have two options. To let him be there alone or follow him so I decided to follow him because I didn’t want to come back home without him,” Evans said.
For several miles, Evans remained close behind, trying to get his brother back in the car. However, when he reached Interstate 30, he knew it was time to call for help.
“I was a little bit hesitant because there are a lot of misconceptions about police,” Evans said. “I, like everyone else, was afraid. I didn’t want anything to happen to him, but I did not want him to get killed or run over by a car.”
That help quickly arrived in the form of four Arkansas State Police troopers. Trooper Jeb Little, standing not so little at 6’ 3”, was one of them.
“They responded right away,” Evans said. “There was this one officer, I still don’t remember his name, he was a very big guy. Intimidating at first, but sweet at least.”
With a little coaxing and patiently navigating a language barrier, in less than 15 minutes the troopers were able to convince the brother to get off the interstate and to a nearby gas station.
“They didn’t speak Spanish, but they tried their best to explain to my brother that they were not there to harm or do anything to him, that they were just trying to help to give the best outcome to all of us,” Evans said.
Trooper Little said his experience working in a youth home helped prepare him for dealing with someone with a mental illness.
“It was just one of those situations where you just need more love and a calm gentle hand to it instead of the usual trooper approach,” Trooper Little said.
Sgt. Charles Lewis, who has 27 years on the force, was also on scene. He recently finished Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) after paying for it out of his own pocket. While it’s not required, Sgt. Lewis said he wanted to be prepared for any situation. He commends his younger officers for how they handled the encounter.
“I think that was the neatest thing watching them because, really, they have not had any formal training. They were just strictly trying to communicate,” Sgt. Chuck Lewis said.
Evans not only sent an email to Arkansas State Police thanking the troopers for how they handled the situation. He also brought what happened to the attention of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who wrote a personal letter of gratitude to all four troopers.
Evans even had the opportunity to express his thanks on a Facetime call, bringing the troopers to tears.
“It’s a blessing. I think your work is very difficult and the fact I can do this, it means a lot to me and my family,” Evans said over the phone.
Evans said he was able to get his brother back home safely and his brother is currently receiving treatment for his mental illness. Evans calls the troopers his “guardian angels” and credits them for saving his brother’s life.