Carroll County Courthouse gets security upgrades after threat

BERRYVILLE, Ark. - If you’ve ever been through the doors of the Carroll County Courthouse, you’ll notice there's more security.

That’s because in late August, Dennis Whitaker was arrested after police said he told someone he was going to go into the courthouse and kill everyone inside, then himself.

Court documents said he had a gun but was stopped from entering the courthouse by his mom.

"He at that time triggered a lot of people working here," said Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton. "They're pretty vulnerable here. There's a lot of people that work in this building."

"You never know who's coming through the door and what kind of mood or attitude they're going to be in," said Gloria Rogers, who lives in Oak Grove.

So the county took the matter into its own hands.

For instance, the metal detector used to be right outside the courtroom, but now it has been moved to right inside the front door.

"When this incident started, they decided to move it over here and start checking everyone coming in," Deaton said.

There's also three other doors in the building.

"They've all been assigned now they're locked all the time," Deaton said.

So people can leave through the doors, but can't come in.

The courthouse also has surveillance cameras, which they got before the threat.

"I think it's about time we need protection wherever we go," said Barbara Wisdom, who lives in Oak Grove.

The bailiff is also now guarding the doorway when court is not in session.

"It did feel safe to walk into a little area and be able to know there's somebody there that pays attention to what's going on," Rogers said.

But some county leaders want more than that.

"On days we've got a lot of court going on, there's a lot of people come in and out of here, and you never know," Deaton said.

He and other county leaders are looking to speak with the county quorum court on Monday to see if the county would be willing to hire a private security guard to man the door.

County leaders also considered asking the quorum court to hire a sheriff's deputy instead of a private security guard. But they ultimately decided the private security guard would be a better fit and cost.