Leslie, AR – Stone County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) Sergeant Michael “Mike” Stephen was murdered in the line of duty on Thursday morning, after he responded to a report of a domestic disturbance.
Sgt. Stephen, a 20-year veteran-of-the-force, was also the chief of the Pineville Fire Department, KATV reported.
The fatal encounter occurred at approximately 8:40 a.m. at 2020 Flag Road, which is in the southwest area of Stone County, near the Van Buren County Line, according to KATV.
When Sgt. Stephen arrived at the residence, he began speaking with a woman out in the front yard, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
As they were talking, the gunman opened fire, striking both the sergeant and the woman.
Sgt. Stephen died at the scene, KUAR reported.
The gunman was found dead when additional deputies arrived at the home, according to the Officer Down Memorial page.
The wounded female was transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, CNN reported.
The Arkansas State Police (ASP) is handling the ongoing investigation, and has not released the name of the suspect or the wounded victim, according to KAIT.
Sgt. Stephen’s wife, Susan, said she knew immediately that her 56-year-old husband had been killed when she heard radio traffic on her scanner about an “officer down” on Thursday morning, she told KATV.
She woke up her children, and they headed towards the scene, she said.
“I’m numb,” Susan told the news outlet.
SCSO Chief Deputy Zach Alexander said Sgt. Stephen had too many admirable attributes to describe him in just a few words.
"There's so much you can say about Mike Stephen – you can't sum it up," Deputy Alexander said, according to CNN. "He was always one to lead from the front. He pushed his guys to be better people.”
During his two decades of service with the SCSO, Sgt. Stephen simultaneously served with PFD, KATV reported.
The U.S. Army veteran joined PFD when he was just 16 years old, and had been the department’s leader since 2008.
He also spent time working for the Arkansas Department of Corrections and the Mountain View Police Department, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
"He was an incredible man," Arkansas State Senator Missy Irvin told the paper. "He was a lifelong law enforcement officer. He was in the Army. He was a volunteer fireman. Everybody loved him."
In addition to serving his city, Sgt. Stephen also worked to help law enforcement officers at the state level by testifying at the State Capitol in regards to issues affecting first responders.
"It never stopped for him," Irvin explained. "It was a lifelong passion 24/7. It didn't stop at the Stone County Sheriff's Office. He was always trying to protect the community and the people he served. He used his expertise and he just helped everyone he could to make sure the public was protected.”
“He was a wonderful man and a wonderful family man,” she added.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Sgt. Stephen’s service and sacrifice, CNN reported.
"Deputy Stephen's death is a somber reminder that our law enforcement officers risk their lives every day to protect ours," the governor said.
Sgt. Stephen is the first line-of-duty death in the history of SCSO, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
“The State of Arkansas has a heavy heart today,” ASP spokesperson Bill Sadler told reporters on Thursday, according to FOX News. “All too often now, we’re getting calls that are resulting in the deaths of law enforcement officers – the individuals who are charged with the duty to keep peace in our communities, counties and across the state.”
“There is no routine call in law enforcement, but what happened this morning began as about as routine as you can get," Sadler added. "Anything can happen, anytime.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Stone County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Michael “Mike” Stephen, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Sergeant Michael Stephen, your life mattered.