Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Frustrated man causes bystander to suffer from seizures

What police feared was an active-shooter situation Thursday afternoon at the Department of Human Services building on Siebenmorgen Road turned out to be an apparently frustrated man armed only with a rock.

According to DHS worker Valerie Estorea, a man later identified as James M. Anderson, 24, of 2405 Washington Ave., walked into the building's waiting area carrying a guitar case and asking to speak to someone. As Anderson didn't have an appointment, Estorea said, he was told to take a number and have a seat, but instead walked back outside.

Moments later, those inside were startled by a loud noise and someone in the waiting area yelled "he's shooting!," according to Estorea.

Several people in the building called 9-1-1 at this point, saying that someone had a gun and was shooting according to Conway Police Department public information officer Sharen Carter, and dispatch advised all CPD officers of an active shooter. Officers responded accordingly, at least one arming himself with an AR-15 tactical rifle when he arrived on the scene.

By the time DHS workers realized that the noise was made by Anderson throwing a rock at one of the building's front windows, the man was running toward the nearby Workforce facility, where his behavior was more confusing than frightening, according to Victoria Garrett.

Garrett said she was waiting in the Workforce lobby when Anderson came in, still carrying the guitar case, and laid down on the floor.

"Then he got up and said 'this is only an exercise,'" Garrett said. "It was weird. Why would anybody come in and lay down like that?"

Anderson got up from the floor and sat down, she continued, and seemed to be about to unzip the guitar case when police arrived and arrested him after a short foot pursuit.

Carter said the 9-1-1 calls started coming in from DHS at about 3:19 p.m., but police made contact with Anderson earlier Thursday, at about 2:30 p.m. at a laundromat in the North Market Plaza shopping center.

Carter said Anderson told police at the laundromat that he "wanted to talk to police about why he didn't get his food stamps posted on his food stamp card."

"The officers told him to give it a few hours or go to DHS and ask them about it," she said. "Obviously, he decided to walk over there, about a 30-minute walk."

No one was injured, Carter said, but "an innocent bystander began having seizures" as Anderson was being arrested. This man was seen yelling and cursing at Anderson immediately before he collapsed, apparently believing, as did several people standing outside DHS and Workforce, that Anderson was concealing a gun in the guitar case and had been shooting at people.

According to police, the guitar case contained a guitar and possibly the rock Anderson threw through the DHS window. He was not found to be in possession of any weapons.

He was arrested on suspicion of felony criminal mischief, criminal trespass, drunk or insane person and felony impairing the operation of a vital public facility.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at Send us your news at


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