LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Nearly one year ago, a man suffering a life-threatening gunshot wound could have potentially been saved had his friend not been fearful of turning to the police for help.
It’s a haunting fact for law enforcement, who exist to serve and protect — no questions asked.
Just after midnight, during the early morning of Sunday, June 12, 2016, police say someone killed 48-year-old Camarillo Pedro Lara and injured 30-year-old Sergio Enrique Vargas during a suspected robbery.
Police say Lara and Vargas were in a car in a local trailer park in the 6400 block of Hazel Street when a man shot into their car. Lara quickly drove away with Vargas in the passenger seat and parked a few blocks south, near Fisher Street and Woodson Road. Injured Vargas was able to escape the car.
Suffering a gunshot wound the upper arm/shoulder area, and knowing his friend was back in the car bleeding profusely, Vargas reportedly hid in fear for close to four hours before finding help. Around 4 a.m., he eventually approached an off-duty officer who was at the nearby Oasis Cantina and Sports Bar on Geyer Springs Road.
Police say Vargas is Hispanic and does not speak English, but managed to tell a detective desperately in Spanish that he had been afraid to go to the police, but his friend was hurt.
Police were led to the car where Lara’s body was found slumped over in the front passenger seat. Vargas survived his injuries; Lara was dead.
The only suspect description police could gather was that the shooter was a “black man wearing black.”
Little Rock Police said it is unclear if Lara would have definitively survived his injuries had medics reached him sooner, but there was a chance his life could have been saved had Vargas mustered up the courage to approach an officer sooner.
In the wake of Lara’s death, the Little Rock Police Department begged the community to understand one thing that could have saved this man’s life: People living in the country illegally need to know the Little Rock Police Department does not care about a victim’s immigration status.
The LRPD added that Lara and Vargas’ immigration statuses were unknown, but whether they were U.S. citizens or not, the LRPD says its job is to save lives and protect the community — without discrimination or judgment.
“When we deal with the Hispanic population, no matter what your status is, we at the Little Rock Police Department are not going to deport you or anything like that, we want to work with you,” LRPD Lieutenant Steve McClanahan said.
Lara’s killer has been walking free for close to a year, and police are still searching for resolution. Anyone with information is asked to call the LRPD at (501) 371 – 4829.