Trumann detective fired after investigation

Friday, March 16, 2012

Trumann police investigator Erik Willbanks was fired March 7 following an investigation into former Police Chief Tony's Rusher use of prescription drugs from the department's evidence room.

Willbanks was suspended two weeks without pay on Feb. 28 after the results of the investigation were released. On March 6, at a special meeting of the Trumann city council, aldermen voted unanimously to support Mayor Sheila Walters in whatever decision she decided to take regarding Willbanks.

Walters fired Willbanks after considering testimony he gave to private investigator and former Arkansas State Trooper Phil Carter.

According to Carter's report, Willbanks said he first noticed Rusher had a problem as far back as two years ago when Rusher went into the evidence room alone and took some hydrocodone that matched his prescription.

"Willbanks said he was not sure of the procedures for going into the evidence room," the report says, "but the chief was with him and said it was okay. Willbanks said he figured this is the way it had always been done."

Willbanks also said in the report that Rusher approached him "10 to 15 times and asked if he had any hydrocodone that had been through court."

"The chief would either go into the evidence room and get the drugs or have me go in and get them," he said. "Every single time he would ask if the drugs had already been through court. It finally got to where I would tell him there were no drugs left in evidence that had not been through court."

Carter's report also states that Willbanks felt an obligation to cooperate with the former chief, noting "Willbanks said he was not made aware of any set rules about the evidence room. He said he felt obligated to cooperate when the chief of police told him to do something."

In January, Willbanks told Assistant Chief Gary Henry about what was going on with Rusher. They went to the state police about the matter, and District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington suggested Mayor Walters conduct an internal investigation.

Now that Carter's investigation is complete, the matter has been turned over to the state police. Ellington has asked the ASP to conduct a criminal investigation into the allegations against Rusher.

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