- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

UPDATED:

LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (AP) - Police say the 49-year-old chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party has died hours after being shot by a gunman who burst into the state party headquarters in Little Rock. Police say Chairman Bill Gwatney died four hours after the shooting near the state Capitol.

The suspect was shot dead after shooting at police officers following a 30-mile police chase.

Police say they don’t have a motive for Gwatney’s killing.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Police say a man suspected of bursting into the Arkansas Democratic Party headquarters and shooting the party chairman has died.

Police say the suspect burst into the office of Party Chairman Bill Gwatney and fired three shots. Gwatney is hospitalized in critical condition.

Police Lt. Terry Hastings says authorities chased the suspect into Grant County, south of Little Rock, and that he was fatally wounded during a 30-mile chase.

WASHINGTON (AP) Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean says the party’s thoughts and prayers are with the head of the Arkansas Democratic Party.

Chairman Bill Gwatney has been hospitalized in critical condition after a shooting at party headquarters Wednesday.

Dean said, “This senseless tragedy comes as a shock to all of us. We pray for his full and speedy recovery.”

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) A gunman entered the Arkansas Democratic Party headquarters Wednesday and shot the party chairman, who was hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.

The gunman asked to speak to the party chairman, Bill Gwatney, and fired three shots at the office near the state Capitol.

“He came in and went into this office and started shooting,” police Lt. Terry Hastings told reporters near the party headquarters.

Gwatney, a former legislator, was in critical condition, Hastings said. Party officials confirmed the victim was Gwatney.

The suspect was chased into Grant County, south of Little Rock, and apprehended after being shot, the police spokesman said. The suspect’s condition and motive were not known.

Sarah Lee, a sales clerk at a flower shop across street from the party headquarters, said that around noon Gwatney’s secretary ran into the shop and asked someone to call 911.

Lee said the secretary told her the man had come into the party’s office and asked to speak with Gwatney. When the secretary said she wouldn’t allow him to meet with Gwatney, the man went into his office and shot him, Lee said.

She said the secretary described the man as in his 40s and white and drove off in a blue truck.

FBI spokesman Steve Frazier said his agency was assisting in the investigation but could not offer any details. “We’re aware of it. We’re helping the state police right now,” Frazier said.

Party director Bruce Sinclair and House Majority Leader Steve Harelson, a Democrat, identified Gwatney as the victim.

Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat who served with Gwatney in the Legislature, had been on a flight to Springdale in northwestern Arkansas but returned to the Capitol after hearing about the shooting, Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said.

Karen Ray, executive director of the Republican Party of Arkansas, sent her workers home early “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Our hearts go out to everyone at the Democratic headquarters. What a tragedy,” Ray said. “This is just a very upsetting, troubling and scary thing for our staff as well.”

Gwatney, who owns and operates three car dealerships in Pulaski County, served 10 years in the state Senate. Gwatney was Beebe’s finance chairman during Beebe’s run for governor in 2006.

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