Fugitive pilot still missing, may have left Arkansas
ARKANSAS COUNTY (KATV) - The man leading Homeland Security investigators on a chase through Arkansas has not been caught yet.
Authorities are remaining tight lipped about who he is, and what he did. They do say they have reason to believe he may have fled the state. While he was here however, he picked up a criminal charge.
We don't know how long the suspect has been on Homeland Security's radar, but he showed up on ours Monday evening.
"It was one of those things that like the sergeant said, 'man, never seen anything like it'. Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington says Monday; he received a call from Homeland Security to pick-up a man who landed at the Saline County airport. When they arrived, the man was fueling the single engine plane. He dropped the nozzle, jumped in and took off down the tarmac in the wrong direction, almost hitting a deputy.
Sheriff Pennington says his office will likely file a felony aggravated assault charge against the man. "He had the deputy not been paying real good attention when he spun that plane around, he could have been seriously injured."
The man used a credit card from California to pay for the gas. Its reportedly where the plane flew in from.
The man flew below radar. Details as to if he picked up anyone or anything along the way before landing near Stuttgart Tuesday morning are unknown.
At about 7 a.m. Tuesday, a constable saw the suspect standing by the downed single engine plane and describes him as white, about 6 feet tall, 200 pounds with bushy dark hair. But when the man saw the constable, that's when he ran. He reportedly was not wearing shoes or a shirt.
Homeland Security, Arkansas County deputies, State Police, Game and Fish officers, the Department of Corrections and Jefferson County deputies joined in the 19.5 mile search with 12 blood hounds and horses. They were several hours behind the suspect. The area is muddy, wooded and there are large fields.
Arkansas County Sheriff Allen Cheek is not at liberty to release any details about the suspect or why he is wanted by Homeland Security. He says people in fear need to know the man isn't in the county and reportedly hasn't harmed anyone while here.
At this time, unless Arkansas County deputies find anything in or around the plane, they don't have a reason to charge the suspect.
Sheriff Pennington says, "He has had numerous scraps with law enforcement and is not afraid to fight law enforcement. Obviously that's true."
The FAA is conducting its own investigation and has not said if the plane is stolen. The plane will be held at a warehouse in Stuttgart.
ICE is also involved in the investigation. They investigate immigration crime, human rights violations and human smuggling, smuggling of narcotics, weapons and other types of contraband, financial crimes, cyber crime and export enforcement issues.