LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas police officer who sparked a manhunt and investigation by claiming he had been shot during a traffic stop was arrested Tuesday after he admitted to colleagues that the incident never happened and he had shot himself.
Arkansas State Police arrested 50-year-old David Houser on suspicion of filing a false police report. Houser turned himself in Tuesday and was booked into the Lonoke County detention center before being released on bond, according to state police and sheriff's office records.
England Police Chief Nathan Cook said he fired Houser on Monday after the officer admitted to investigators that he had lied. Cook said the traffic stop and shooting — as Houser described it — never happened, and that investigators believe Houser fired the shot that grazed his bullet-resistant vest.
"The more we investigated, the more it became clear that the details of his story were inconsistent," Cook said. "We went after it as if we were going after someone who had just tried to kill a police officer."
Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley says Houser has no attorney. Houser didn't return a call seeking comment.
Police said Houser called in a traffic stop about 2 a.m. on Oct. 24, on rural state highway 15, about 30 miles east of Little Rock. Shortly after calling in the stop, Houser reported to police dispatch that the driver had shot him and he had returned fire with his service weapon.
Cook said Tuesday that the department sent EMS, called Arkansas State Police investigators and established a crime scene.
A news release from the department last month gave details of Houser's account of the events, which included knocking the driver's gun away and spinning out of harm's way as the driver fired. He told investigators a bullet grazed across his bullet-resistant vest and deflected off a pen. He was not hurt in the incident.
Police launched a manhunt and tip line looking for the SUV and driver whom Houser described as a Hispanic man in his 30s.
Cook said Monday that the hole in Houser's left breast pocket of his uniform was self-inflicted.
"The crime scene was staged. The bullet hole was self-inflicted," Cook said. "He had laid out some different caliber (casings) to make it appear he had exchanged gunfire. He did discharge his service weapon."
Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said the investigation is still open and he could not release details.
Lonoke County Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham said he had asked the Office of the Prosecutor Coordinator to assign a special prosecutor to the case to avoid any conflicts because his office tries cases out of England.
Houser was hired by the department in October 2013, Cook said, adding that the department does not plan to re-examine any of Houser's arrests during his employment.
"He was a good officer," Cook said. "I'm not a doctor, so I can't speculate why this happened. I know he's had some personal losses lately. We just hope he gets the help he needs."
Houser previously worked as a deputy in the Lonoke County sheriff's office. Staley said Houser has also been terminated from the reserve deputy program.
"I've heard he's a very good guy, so this is shocking and it's disappointing, but he's going to be held accountable," Staley said. "It happens enough in reality. You pray that when you make a traffic stop, it won't happen. And it does. Why would you ever make that up? What would he gain from that? It's just amazing to me."