Man accused of killing Conway officer appears in court

CONWAY (KATV) - About 50 of Barry Strickland's friends and family were by his side Wednesday as he made his first court appearance since allegedly hitting Conway police officer William McGary with his car.

"He was kind of like a son to me that I never had," said Debbie Widner, a family friend. "He was always welcome in my home and still is."

They're trying to paint a different picture of the man accused of fatally running over Conway police officer William McGary.

It's an act authorities believe Strickland committed under the influence of drugs.

"I know he didn't do that intentionally," said Widner. "No way, knowing Barry."

Strickland hugged supporters after coming out of his Wednesday morning bond hearing.

The judge kept the veteran's bail at $150,000, despite the prosecution's attempts to raise it.

Strickland's attorney reminded an emotional group the legal battle ahead is tough.

"This [crowd] supports a good man who's in a lot of trouble," said Frank Shaw.

So much trouble, says William H. Bowen School of Law professor Felicia Epps, his reported troubles with post-traumatic stress disorder may not sway a jury.

"The mental health issues, unless it rises to the level of insanity defense, is really not something that leads to an acquittal," said Epps.

While Conway mourns its tragic loss, Strickland's friends know he will need all the support his family can provide.

"His family is just an old family there in Bald Knob," said Widner. "Well known family."

Strickland is out on bond and will not have to appear in court again until May 1 where he's scheduled for a status hearing.