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Jones and his family have lived in the house on Arch Street in the shadow of the high-rise, government-subsidized housing project, since 1995. Jones did a lot of the work on his house himself. When he bought it, it was a wreck.
"It was all divided up into crack house apartments," Jones said. "As a matter of fact, for awhile people would still come from Parris Towers and knock on the door, still trying to score from the gal who lived here before."
Jones said that aside from the problems caused by some of the bad element that lived next door, having the tower looming over his back yard, less than 50 feet from his fence, has been tolerable. "Parris Towers, in general, is good and bad," Jones said. "There's some of the best elderly people who are great neighbors, mixed in with young meth addicts. That can get volatile."
(The housing is open to low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities, with rent based on income according to federal guidelines.)
Things have been getting better in the neighborhood in recent years, with more houses restored, gangs moving out and families moving in. Then, early in the summer, Jones was working mixing music for commercials in the small studio behind his house when he heard his dog, Codybear, yelp.
"He would lie out [on the porch of the studio] while it was cool, and I heard what sounded like an air staple gun," Jones said. "A couple of times, he would yelp. I'd open the door, and there was nothing. I thought he was getting eaten up by bugs... then he got a skin infection, and [the vet] said, 'Yeah, he's been shot with a pellet.' That's when I found a pellet on my landing and put two and two together."
Concerned, Jones went to Parris Towers to talk to the manager, which caused more problems than were solved.
"She offered her brand of help," Jones said. "They kind of run things like a junior high school over there, so she immediately got on the intercom as I was leaving and said 'do not shoot the neighbor's dog, he will file animal cruelty charges against you.' I thought, that's the worst thing you could have done."
Soon after, Jones' car, which had been parked in the back yard, started taking damage. One window was shot out. The pellet gun was powerful enough that it put dime-sized dings in the hood and trunk lid, knocking off paint. A few days after his dog was shot, when Jones went into the back yard to clean up, someone from the tower shot at him. He installed a small camera, and was soon able to catch a few seconds of video of the sniper. In the video, a young man in a white shirt leans out from a seventh floor laundry room, levels a black pistol, and squeezes off a few shots before disappearing back inside. The resolution isn't high enough to identify the shooter.
Several calls to Little Rock Housing Authority, which operates the building, and Parris Towers went unreturned at press time.
Police Lt. Terry Hastings said both police officers and firemen are often at the building. "We get lots of calls down to that place — not only us, but the fire department makes probably a run a day down there on some fire issue."
Hastings said that high-rise public housing has been a problem for police all over the country, and said that enforcing the law there is challenging. He said such high-rises often have their own "mini-government," either official or unofficial, and that people inside usually won't talk to police for fear of retaliation.
"We don't get a lot of cooperation. I'm not sure we get a really clear picture of a place like that," Hastings said. "We can't patrol that like you do a street. Even with an apartment complex, we can drive through and patrol, but with that an officer has to get out, go in there and walk the floors and a lot of times our call load does not allow us to do that."
Hastings said that for those reasons, catching the Parris Towers shooter will be a tall order. Still, he said, the case is a cause for concern. Today's pellet sniper might pick up a real gun tomorrow.
For now, David Jones has battened down the hatches. The pellets come almost every day — including the morning we came to his home to speak with him. Standing in his tree-shaded back yard, looking up at the building, it's hard to fight the urge to duck back to cover. For his part, Jones is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter, and he's working — a losing battle at this point — to put his car back in order. Mostly, he said, he's worried about his animals.
"The issue that I'm worried about is safety for my pets," he said. "I'm afraid to have my cat walk out back because a pellet would kill her. My insurance will take care of the car, but something needs to be done."
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