There's been no shortage of shocking news to report in Phillips County during my 23-year tenure here. However, it is rare to be hit with two major surprises in one day. I am referring to the shooting involving local radio station owner Elijah Mondy and the closing of the Phillips County Jail.
I have been involved in crime reporting in one form or another –writing or editing – for almost 35 years now. There have been some horrific incidents to report. For the most part, the victims of the crimes have been faceless. In some instances I have known family members that were affected by criminal acts but not the person themselves.
The shooting of Elijah Mondy nearly knocked me to my knees. I don't see Elijah on a regular basis but when he spots me in public he always has a kind word and enjoys teasing a little. He is a kind, friendly man in which this community should be proud.
Being in the mass media business, I feel Elijah and I have something in common. Like me, I am sure he gets weary of having to report the seamier side of our community. This time, it hit way too close to home.
I firmly believe Elijah is alive today because of the actions of his wife, Belinda, who was driving the vehicle during the incident. By not allowing the suspect to gain entry to the vehicle and by speeding away, she prevented an even more serious incident from going down. I also believe that God had a hand in the situation.
More than anything, the attack on Elijah was a wake up call to me that acts of senseless violence can and happen to anyone in this community at any given time. Something has got to change.
Hopefully, God will give Elijah and I the ability to use our talents and our forums as an instrument to make the public aware of the perils that lie right on their front door steps and get them involved in getting to the root of the problem so that we all can live together in peace.
In a related matter, I would personally like to thank the local police officers in their quick solution of this crime. Hopefully, the judge will throw the book at the culprits that perpetrated this outrageous crime by luring a “Good Samaritan” into what appeared to be a needed act of kindness.
Here's praying for a speedy recovery for Elijah.
Now, let's move on to the matter of the county jail. After attending several quorum court meetings, I was aware that something was about to happen but the magnitude and the quickness of the action came as quite a surprise.
Rumors had been circulating for quite some time that at least a section of the jail was going to be closed down. JPs reported visiting the facility and declaring the living conditions there to be “deplorable.”
Page 2 of 2 - The jail closure is going to work an additional hardship on our law enforcement officers. Now, they not only must apprehend the criminals, they will be responsible for transporting them to locations as far away as Wynne in Cross County and Marianna in Lee County and perhaps other locations. These will all be two-way trips probably requiring two officers. The problem is magnified during court sessions when the officers will probably have to transport the inmates to and from the facilities for their court appearances in Phillips County.
There's no doubt about it, crime is taking its toll on Phillips County – not just the victims but city and county finances as well. Just think how much money would be in the government coffers if it weren't for the criminal element. At this juncture, it will be difficult to put an exact price tag on the housing of our prisoners elsewhere.
Now, more than ever, it's time for the public to step forward and help support our local police. Things have reached the critical stage. Despite the best efforts of many, crime appears to still be on the rise in Phillips County. Contact the police if you see ANY suspicious activity in your neighborhood. Be careful when you stop to help someone. Contact the police bef