The morning of July 18 “began as about as routine as you can get” for Sgt. Michael Stephen, Arkansas State Police say, with the longtime Stone County Sheriff’s deputy and U.S. Army veteran summoned to a home in Leslie to carry out a domestic welfare check. When he arrived, officials say, he started talking to a woman outside.
Then, a male at the scene shot and killed him, according to authorities.
“All too often now we’re getting calls that are resulting in the deaths of law enforcement officers, the individuals who are charged with the duty to keep peace in our communities, counties and across the state,” Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler told reporters days later. “There is no routine call in law enforcement, but what happened this morning began as about as routine as you can get. But anything can happen anytime.”
Stephen’s wife Susan told KATV that, on the morning of the shooting, “as soon as I heard there was an officer down, I woke my kids up and said, 'We're going to Stone County.’”
She described herself as “numb” after learning her husband was the victim.
At his funeral the following week, police from around the state -- and the country -- showed up to pay tribute to their brother in blue.
“We are all one big family,” Pulaski County Sheriff’s deputy Mathew Gentry told KTHV. “When we go out on calls, we work to get everyone home safe; the citizens, the officers, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.”
Stephen, who served with the Stone County Sheriff’s Office for two decades, was described by his colleagues as being someone that “led from the front.”
“Every accident he has ever done, he always would be the first guy in somewhere and the last one out,” Chief Deputy Zach Alexander said.
The 56-year-old also spent the last nine years of his life working as the chief of the Pineville Fire Department.
"We depended on Mike for a lot of stuff, and he was always there,” his colleague there, Ron Klein, told KATV. “If there was something that needed to be done, he was there to do it."