Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
Interviewing the people in Tracy Ingle's life — his sisters, his foster brother, his friends — you hear one line often enough that it soon becomes a refrain: Tracy is no angel.
Though all express their love and admiration for him — a kind man; a man who can fix anything, they say — they tend to tell you the bad things about him first. A recovering alcoholic, Ingle had a couple of DWIs several years back. When the Arkansas Times spoke to him, he was on house arrest for a 5-year-old failure-to-appear warrant. A car accident in Maryland in 2002 left him with degenerative disk disease in his back and what his sisters said is an addiction to pain killers — though all of his pills are legally prescribed. Up until Christmas 2007, he had several roommates, many of whom had had recent run-ins with the law. Last year, he agreed to fix a stereo in a friend's Mustang — a car that turned out to be hot — and got arrested for receiving stolen merchandise. That case still hasn't shaken out.
No matter what Ingle or those he gave a temporary home to may have done, however, it's hard to imagine he deserved what he got Jan. 7. That night, the North Little Rock SWAT team stormed Ingle's house on a high-risk, “no-knock” search warrant. By the time all was said and done, Ingle had been shot five times — including one bullet that pulverized his femur and left his leg dangling from his body, connected only by a bloody mess of meat, skin and tendon.
According to an evidence list left at Ingle's house after the shooting, no suspected drugs or drug residue were recovered from the residence — only a digital scale, a notebook and a few plastic baggies, all of which Ingle's family members have identified as part of the junk they had collectively stored at the house.
It might seem strange, then, that Ingle currently stands accused of several serious felonies — including two counts of aggravated assault. While the North Little Rock police insist they got a dangerous criminal off the streets, Ingle and his family say the charges are all about appearances — and covering the police.
Tracy Ingle's biggest problem, those who know him say, is that he just can't say no.
For five years now, Ingle has lived in a rambling, hand-me-down house on East 21st Street in North Little Rock. The place used to belong to his sister's godfather — has at one time or another been home to nearly all his kin. In recent years, however, as the neighborhood took a rough turn and family moved away, the house became storage and catch-all for Ingle's entire clan, the upstairs full of boxes, baby clothes, knick-knacks and Tracy's prodigious collection of ham radio gear. A former stonemason who worked federal contracts in D.C. before he hurt his back, Ingle led a hand-to-mouth existence even before he was shot, repairing electronics and doing odd jobs for money.
As someone who knows what it is to be down and out, he's always been an easy touch, his family says, for those looking to crash at his place long term. They say Ingle would take in nearly anyone with a hard luck story; a situation that even he admits led to a lot of shady characters hanging around the house. Before Christmas, before he put most of them out, there were five full-time roommates living in the house, including a cousin who had recently gotten out of jail after serving time for making meth.
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