Fort Smith officer-involved shooting in October deemed justified by prosecutor

The Fort Smith Police Department is seen Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 near downtown. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)
The Fort Smith Police Department is seen Friday, Nov. 5, 2021 near downtown. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FORT SMITH — Two police officers who shot a man last month while trying to take him into custody won’t face criminal charges.

Sebastian County prosecutor Dan Shue wrote in a letter to Arkansas State Police on Wednesday this office found officers Tucker Romesburg and Caleb Jenkins of the Fort Smith Police Department were justified under state law in shooting Michael Fairburn at 8:40 p.m. Oct. 25. Shue’s decision came after reviewing the entire investigative file surrounding the incident.

Shue said the incident began in a wooded area across from Shamrock Liquor on Midland Boulevard on Oct. 25 when Romesburg, Jenkins and another officer — Arthur Lewis — were trying to serve Fairburn a felony warrant out of Indiana. Fairburn reportedly threatened to kill the officers, brandished a knife and aggressively moved toward them. Romesburg told Fairburn to drop the knife and get on the ground, but Fairburn fled across Midland Boulevard toward the liquor store.

Lewis unsuccessfully tried to use a stun gun on Fairburn, who proceeded to throw a knife that hit Lewis in his inner right thigh, according to Shue. Fairburn was reportedly holding a second knife in his other hand when Romesburg and Jenkins shot him.

Shue said the officers then called for emergency medical services. Romesburg applied tourniquets to both of Fairburn’s legs to control his bleeding. Fairburn was taken to Baptist Health before being taken to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

Lewis said during an interview with Arkansas State Police he encountered Fairburn the night before the incident, according to Shue. Fairburn ended up fleeing from Lewis, who seized a BB air rifle from the area of the encounter, along with several knives that were reportedly stuck in a piece of wood. Lewis said it appeared Fairburn had been throwing the knives at the wood.

Emergency room staff at Baptist Health found a number of items in Fairburn’s clothes and person, Shue said. This reportedly included baggies containing suspected methamphetamine, suspected marijuana and “white residue,” as well as more baggies that were empty, rolling papers and a glass pipe. Shue said Fairburn is also both a habitual felon with more than four prior felony convictions and a sex offender who is required to register.

An Oct. 25 news release from the Police Department states the officers involved in the incident had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the Arkansas State Police’s investigation. The Police Department also conducted an internal investigation into the shooting.