DES ARC, Ark. – The Prairie County sheriff claims he is not racist and said nothing wrong after a recorded phone line captured him responding to news of a shooting with a comment about black people living in the area.
The call was made by the county’s communication center to Sheriff Rick Hickman after a triple shooting left three people dead.
The call, first shared on social media and requested under the state’s public-record law, lasted about 90 seconds. The dispatcher can be heard describing where the shooting happened.
“The house next to the apartments,” the dispatcher told Hickman.
The sheriff replied, “Oh, really. Black people then.”
Jimel Brown has lived in Des Arc all his life and said the sheriff’s comments are concerning.
“It doesn’t sit right with me,” Brown said. “That’s not somebody you would want representing your town, protecting the people, serving the people.”
Hickman, whose been in office for six years and is running for re-election, said the call is being used against him for political reasons.
“I said where. Was it the blacks in the apartments? Cause those apartments are all blacks where it happened,” Hickman recalled.
Hickman said he does not understand why people would be concerned about the comments.
“No, cause those blacks live over there — that’s why I asked,” he said. “Nothing racial about it.”
Brown, who has two small children, said the remarks bother him.
“Sad to say, it’s not really surprising coming from this town,” he told KARK 4 News.
The sheriff said some former employees are out to slander him. When asked if he’s used racial slurs before, Hickman said it was likely.
“Probably, in the past, but you know it is what it is. Everybody does,” Hickman said. “I don’t use the N-word a lot but occasionally, I might have said it.”
Hickman said he is not a racist. The victims and suspect in the shooting are white and the shooting, in fact, happened at a house.
As far as the shooting, Hazen and Arkansas State Police are investigating it.
Hickman’s opponent in the race for sheriff did not want to comment.