WASHINGTON COUNTY, OK – An off-duty deputy was working on moving from a property when the stepson of the property owner showed up and confronted him.
Deputy Travis Adams recognized the man as Justin Hellyer. He had encountered him on more than one occasion in the county jail where Adams worked and Hillyer had been locked up.
The incident occurred at roughly 6 pm on September 3rd. Now, the deputy is under investigation by two departments, Hillyer is recovering from two shots to the abdomen, and a female traveling with Hillyer was more concerned with filming the altercation and announcing that fact than she was with Hillyer laying on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds.
According to a release, deputies found one person, Justin Hellyer, had been shot twice by Travis Adams, an off-duty Adair County, Okla. sheriff's deputy. https://t.co/UbNaf6mT7W https://t.co/UbNaf6mT7W
— 40/29 Emma Claybrook (@4029emma) September 8, 2022
While numerous news sources have shown edited versions of the incident, we have reached out to someone who has a complete video from that day, with no editing. Once we have received and reviewed that video, we will post it here.
But for now, here is what we know.
The deputy from Adair County, Oklahoma was living in neighboring Washington County, Arkansas, when he encountered Hillyer.
Adams instructed the man to leave the property, but Hillyer kept saying he had the right to be there because his dad owns the property that Adams home was on.
As they continued their shouting match, a woman appeared telling them to stop because there were children present.
Adair County Sheriff Jason Ritchie told Fox 23 that the address where the shooting occurred was where Adams, his wife and children were residing. He also posted to his Facebook page.
“I Adair County Sheriff Jason Ritchie am aware of the incident that took place in Washington County Arkansas with off duty Adair county Sheriff Deputy Travis Adams. I intend to cooperate fully and trust Washington County will do a thorough investigation. Deputy Adams will be on Admin leave pending the investigation.”
The video was shot by a woman that is believed to have been traveling with Hillyer.
In the video, Adams can be heard telling Hillyer that he needs to go, using his left hand to hold the man at bay.
“It looks like a stand your ground situation to me,” Ritchie said. “When you have a former inmate show up on your property, and they won’t leave, to anyone in law enforcement, it can be a scary situation, especially if you don’t know their full intentions.”
Hillyer then starts yelling at Adams saying, “shoot me, that’s what y’all do,” and “I aint scared of that gun.”
After several of these exchanges and multiple attempts by Hillyer to step up to Adams, Hillyer manages to get his hand around Adams’ neck and start pushing him back. It is at this point that Adams raised his firearm and pulled the trigger twice. Hillyer fell face first on the ground.
The woman in the car who was videoing simply said:
“What is wrong with you? I hope you know I recorded this.”
When EMS arrived, they found him with two gunshot wounds in his stomach and took him to the hospital, where he was expected to recover.
Sheriff Ritchie confirmed that the weapon used by Adams was his duty weapon.
Numerous people took the opportunity to respond to the sheriff’s Facebook post.
Apparently, even in in Arkansas, people are quick to judge rather than allowing the evidence to play out and the investigation to conclude.
“I would be afraid to be pulled over by this deputy,” Dee Walker wrote. “He shouldn’t be allowed to continue any law enforcement training.”
Cory Griffith took their comments even further, showing a complete lack of understanding of what law enforcement officers are “allowed” to do.
“I’m embarrassed for this department. For the Sheriff to defend this man’s actions is unacceptable. You’re not allowed to have a gun while drunk, you also can’t shoot unarmed people.
This man wasn’t defending his property, he was mad the other man was there. If this was a civilian, would the sheriff still defend them or would they charge them. I hope both the sheriff and deputy lose their jobs.”
We here at Law Enforcement Today believe in the truth. If it turns out that Deputy Adams broke a law or violated department policy, we believe that he should be held accountable.
But we also believe in not jumping to conclusions and automatically assuming that a member of law enforcement is in the wrong simply because he had a gun and someone else didn’t
Not being armed does not mean you are not a threat. Many of our readers have been put in similar situations in their careers and can tel you that it isn’t as simple as, “they are unarmed, put your guns away.”
We will follow this investigation closely and provide updates as they become available.
Prison officer in critical condition after inmate (a convicted murderer with a violent past) attacks him with gym equipment
Shirley, MA: A 10-year veteran officer of the Massachusetts’s Correctional Institution in Shirley, MA is fighting for his life after he was violently attacked by an inmate wielding a 3-foot-long metal bar piece of gym equipment.
The officer, Matthew Tidman was on duty at the MCI in a medium/ minimum section of the prison when the attack occurred. He remains in critical condition in a coma as his family members nearby pray for his recovery.
The inmate and a convicted murdered attacked Officer Tidman with the ten-pound metal bar and hit him multiple times in the head, knocking him out. The severe blows caused brain bleeding and a broken skull.
The inmate has a long history of attacks against prison staff.
The attack caused public outrage which questioned the fact that gym equipment, which is inherently dangerous, was made available to dangerous inmates with violent pasts. One of those people outraged was a former co-worker of the Massachusetts’s Correctional system and friend to Tidman, Melissa George.
In an emotionally charged post, she openly criticized both the media for downplaying the incident and the Department of Corrections for their role in the neglect.
In her social media post she stated:
“Why are all the gyms in state prisons still open and being used by inmates with free range equipment that can be used as weapons, after you just saw what happened and can happen again.”
Her post continued:
“Why aren’t you closing the gyms statewide, removing all Mobil equipment, and replacing it all with stationary machines that can’t be dismantled or used as weapons?”
No information was available as to what led to the attack. However, it is not uncommon for inmates with violent tendencies to randomly attack someone without cause or without being triggered.
It is also sometimes triggered by a relatively minor issue, like the brand of medication has been changed for example. These inmates go on a violent rampage and later claim to have ‘blacked out’ and have no recollection of the incident.
The Correctional Classification System
Generally speaking, inmates are classified one of several different ‘classification levels’. These levels typically range from ‘close custody’ aka maximum custody level all the way down to minimum level.
Some states go beyond minimum custody level and are classified ‘community level custody’. This occurs in states that offer half-way houses for inmates to be housed outside a correctional setting. These inmates, who are still serving their sentence, are authorized to be out in public only to travel to and from work and are expected to return to their ‘half-way’ house.
Inmate’s classification status is determined by any inmate’s history and behavior in the correctional system, the seriousness of their crime, participation in rehabilitative programs and so on.
Correctional administrative staff then meet periodically to determine if an inmate’s custody level should be lowered or raised. In many circumstances, administrative staff will ‘gamble’ that an inmate will thrive and succeed if they are given additional privileges.
Administrative staff may also ‘rush’ into a decision. Political pressure may be added to correctional officials to reduce the inmate population and reduce maximum custody level inmates. This may cause administrative staff to prematurely change an inmate’s classification level purely to meet demands.
In a liberal state like Massachusetts, this is very possible.
With the purported violent history of this inmate’s violence against staff, it appears that someone in the administrative staff was asleep behind the wheel and approved this inmate to be around gym equipment.
Most prison’s nationwide severely limit the amount of gym equipment available to inmates for obvious reasons- they are quick and effective weapons.
It is unclear if Massachusetts’s correctional system removed the gym equipment and later replaced it as part of their progressive policies towards inmates or if they never removed such dangerous equipment in the first place.
Either way incompetence reared its ugly head and now a correctional officer is fighting for his life because of it.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to provide financial support for the Tidman family.
According to the GoFundMe page:
“As many of you know Officer Matt Tidman was the victim of a brutal attack by an inmate while on duty. While Matt fights for his life and remains in critical condition, his family remains by his side. Matt is someone who is the first to lend a helping hand no matter the situation and now is our time to do the same for him and his family!”
If you wish to support the Tidman family, please go to their GoFundMe page.
Violence against correctional officers occurs form civilians, too.
This correctional officer was shot in 2016 by someone trying to skip the visitation line. He just died.
Posted October 18, 2021
FRESNO COUNTY, CA – A Fresno County Sheriff’s Office correctional officer succumbed to his sustained injuries earlier in October from a 2016 incident where he and another correctional officer were shot in the lobby of the main jail while dealing with a man who lashed out after being told to go to the back of the visitation line.
STORY UPDATE: With comments from a longtime correctional officer …. Unarmed deputy who was shot at the Fresno jailhouse dies from injuries five years later https://t.co/KVESIIPVXj
— Fresno Bee (@FresnoBee) October 13, 2021
Correctional Officer IV Toamalama “Malama” Scanlan passed away on October 12th, slightly over five years after the September 3rd, 2016, incident that left him hospitalized for the remaining years of his life.
The 2016 shooting that left CO IV Scanlan hospitalized reportedly started out as an issue involving a man, identified as Thong Vang, who was trying to skip to the front of the visitation line at the main jail. Vang was instructed to go to the back of the line, but Vang instead opted to walk toward a metal detector that led to a secure area of the jail lobby.
CO IV Scanlan and CO Juanita Davila approached Vang, which both of the officers were unarmed, and tried to get the man to sit down – Vang produced a firearm and shot both of the correctional officers in the head. CO Davila eventually recovered from her injuries, whereas CO IV Scanlan did not.
Vang, a convicted child rapist who served 16 years in prison before being released in 2014, was later convicted of attempted murder in a 2018 trial where he was sentenced to 112 years to life in prison. During his 2018 trial, Vang testified that he was high on methamphetamine during the shooting and proclaimed to have been suffering from paranoia.
Eulalio Gomez, a longtime correctional officer who served as the president of the Fresno County Public Safety Association at the time of the 2016 incident, spoke highly of the fallen correctional officer’s bravery when responding to the armed subject:
“Officer Scanlan was a brave man and was selfless. He brought a taser to a gunfight. That’s all he had at the time to help.”
CO IV Scanlan started his career in law enforcement back in June of 1998 working with Fresno County Probation before joining the sheriff’s office in April of 2006. Six years into his career with the sheriff’s office, he was promoted to the rank of CO IV and worked in population management.
— Fresno Co Sheriff (@FresnoSheriff) October 13, 2021
The fallen correctional officer was not only respected by his colleagues – but also by the inmate population and reformed convicts who interacted with him at the jail, according to Gomez:
“As a retiree, I’ve come in contact with a number of ex-inmates they’d ask how Scanlan was doing. He was so respected, ex-gang members and gang members said they were praying for his recovery. He just left a big footprint in many lives. But his passing breaks so many hearts, as well.”
CO IV Scanlan is survived by his wife and six children.