APNewsBreak: Man shot mayor who backed his parole

June 16, 2011 - 2:13 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A convicted killer who was out on parole shot and critically wounded a northern Arkansas mayor who had written a letter in support of his release from prison, records show.

Everton Mayor Bill Gerdes was in critical condition at a hospital in Springfield, Mo., after he was shot in the back and left hand Wednesday night.

Authorities arrested Justin Bates around midnight Wednesday after an hours-long standoff outside his father's home in Everton. Boone County Sheriff Danny Hickman said Bates, 35, faces a count of attempted capital murder and a firearms charge.

He's being held at the county jail on $1 million bond. He does not have an attorney yet, Hickman said.

Nearly five years ago, when Bates became eligible for parole in a second-degree murder case, Gerdes wrote to authorities on Bates' behalf.

"Having visited him during his incarceration from time to time I have noticed his progress and a change of atitude, espepecially (sic) the last 2 years," Gerdes wrote in an August 2006 letter obtained by The Associated Press. "I think him and his outlook on life have changed a lot for the better."

Bates was released on parole in September 2010 and had not encountered any problems until the alleged shooting, a community correction spokeswoman Rhonda Sharp said.

He and the mayor "had a good relationship," Hickman said.

A sheriff's deputy found a wounded Gerdes outside Bates' father's home about 6:20 p.m. Wednesday. Bates was brandishing a gun, but a sheriff's deputy was able to move the mayor to safety, Hickman said.

Authorities then flew Gerdes to a hospital over the state border in Springfield, Mo., where his wife told the sheriff on Thursday that he was in critical condition.

Meanwhile, Bates was holed up in his father's home in the northern Arkansas town of fewer than 140 people, and a standoff with authorities endured for several hours. Officers fired beanbags at him and eventually took him into custody.