Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott responds to claims over removing homeless camps

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 5:20 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2023 at 5:21 PM CST
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GREENE COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - The debate over who started a fire at a homeless camp rages on.

On one side, a homeless group. On the other side, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. The group claims deputies burned homeless people’s belongings when they raided the camp earlier this month.

But the sheriff said that didn’t happen.

Christie Love is with the Connecting Grounds, an organization that helps homeless people. She was in a meeting with Greene County Commissioners.

In the meeting, she said she wants a way where homeless people aren’t violently displaced, and funding for body cams for Greene County deputies after these events.

Love said a video of the fire was taken on February 10th, the day deputies raided homeless camps on private property and told people to leave.

The video was taken by someone who advocates for the homeless group and Pastor Love.

Love was not there that day, and the video does not show who started the fire, just the aftermath.

But Love said she’s spoken with several campers who were there and tell the same story.

“They were with Greene County Sheriff’s that they identified themselves, that they gave campers two minutes to exit their tents,” said Love. “They talked about how they watched as deputies poured gasoline and ignited.”

Sheriff Arnott said his deputies did not start any fire. When asked about if they brought gas cans, he said this:

“We brought a lot of items to there to help and carry items in for landowners to assist,” said Sheriff Arnott.

Sheriff Arnott said he knows who started the fire and won’t give us any information on who they are.

When asked why he said:

“It’s private property, and property owners can do what they want on their private property or their associates,” said Sheriff Arnott.

Love said she wants more answers.

“Is there an explanation?” said Love. “I think when the explanation comes from leadership that says, I know who set these fires, but I won’t say who it is. That’s not an answer.”

The sheriff says he was there that day and deputies were following the law.

“Bottom line is when a citizen calls and they have someone trespassing on their property, you’re committing a crime on their property, we’re going to respond,” said Sheriff Arnott.

Sheriff Arnott said landowners said they were afraid of what the people on their land would do.

“They’re absolutely intimidating,” said Sheriff Arnott. “These people are victims of crime. Also, I will work hard to make sure that they have justice. If I can do something to help them, I will.”

Love said she knows property owners are upset.

“I understand that property owners are frustrated and I agree they shouldn’t bear the burden, the burden of having to shelter people on their property,” said Love.

Love has expressed concern in the past about these raids. She said the sheriff should work closer with her and others to give the homeless more notice to leave.

“That’s part of what we’re challenging, is working together to find a solution that requires all of us to work together and requires all of us to communicate,” said Love.

But the sheriff said it was his job to respond immediately.

“If you’re a landowner and a property owner, and you don’t want somebody trespassing,” said Sheriff Arnott. “That’s my job is to take care of it.”

We did ask to speak directly with the campers who say they saw the deputies with gas cans that day, but Love said because they are homeless she wasn’t able to get in touch with them in time for our interview.

Sheriff Arnott said he has 20 more complaints of other camps on private property they are looking into now. He added that several businesses have stepped forward to help landowners clean up the camps after the raids.

Love said Greene County still needs to get more help to the homeless, so they don’t feel like they have to set up these camps.

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