Ann Cook understands what it’s like to be a female police chief in Arkansas. After all, it appears that she was White County’s first female chief of police, serving in the role in McRae from 2005-08.
Now, the county has another female police chief, Chrystal Bonner in Pangburn, and Cook thinks “it’s great.” Bonner took over Dec. 31 for William Miller, who retired.
“I think that with her being named the chief, I think it’s great. I don’t know the lady. I think at some point I will probably go to Pangburn and meet her,” said Cook, who will turn 74 on Jan. 19. “I don’t think I did a bad job at McRae. I’ve always tried very hard to treat people like I wanted to be treated. I mean, I don’t care who they were, what they were doing or anything, always give the person time to explain their side and then do what you have to do legally.
“I just want it said that I had a wonderful time serving the people of McRae. I loved them and if I could have, I would have still been there. I had a stroke, that was the reason I had to leave law enforcement back in 2008.”
She said that it happened when she was returning from the 17th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Searcy. “I was in the patrol car. I ran some people off the road. I didn’t intend to and I didn’t realize it. All I can tell you really is that I just dearly loved my job, I loved helping people. I’m proud I have made it this far.”
“I started out in Beebe as the first female police officer there and I worked patrol. I think it was around 1992.”
According to Beebe Police Chief Wayne Ballew, Cook “had a servant’s heart and was always willing to help anybody that she could. The respect and appreciation that our community has for Chief Cook is a testament to her character. Beebe, McRae and White County were better off because of the service that Chief Cook provided to our community.”
Although she loved her job, Cook, who has 13 grandkids and an 11th great-grandbaby on the way in March, said being in law enforcement wasn’t always easy, whether you were a policeman, policewoman or police chief.
She recalled a call the Beebe police received while she was an officer there. It came from a payphone in front of the Texaco/McDonald’s.
“I went to check it out and my lieutenant at the time, Wayne Gibson – he was not with me but we were in separate cars and we both kind of checked it out,” Cook said. “I found the guy at the payphone and he said people were trying to kill him, and to get the gist of the whole story, he was high on PCP, horse tranquilizer is what it is. He would be kind of sensible one minute, then it was like a light switch and then he would just go crazy.
“He was a small guy but PCP will kind of give you the strength of four or five men. He started getting out of line and everything. He threw me across the back of my patrol car and that’s when Gibson jumped in and got the cuffs on him. We were both struggling with him. Anyway, we called for backup and everybody was coming. We ended up, we got him to the jail.”
Cook said that the individual, Tunc Elmas, was from Istanbul.
“We were trying to get him booked in. We only had one holding cell at Beebe at the time,” she said. “There was no weapons lockup like most police departments have, so it ended up we booked him, got him into the cell. The chief of the police at that time said something to him – I don’t know what it was – and he stormed out the door because we hadn’t got it closed yet.
“The four of us fell back into the holding cell, and it’s small. We were all wrestling and he had his hand on the chief of police’s 9mm and I grabbed his hand with a death grip. I knew if he got that out, we was all dead. I had the death grip on it like I said. The next thing I know he had mine [gun] and it discharged.”
Cook said the gun she was carrying was “a .357 magnum L-Frame, a Smith and Wesson.” After it discharged, “I felt my stomach burning and I thought that ... well, I thought that I was going to die because I knew what I had loaded in it. I had what they call black talons.”
“At that instant, everybody just froze,” she said. “It seemed like everything was in slow motion. I know that sounds crazy. Then we started wrestling again. Well, it ended up he had my weapon and he was going to shoot me in the face.”
She said that Gibson grabbed the gun “around the hammer and the fire pin. He put his thumb between the hammer and the firing pin, that’s what we are trained to do. Anyway, he held on to that. If it hadn’t of been for him, I would have been dead, there’s no question.”
At the time, Cook said she thought she got shot in the stomach; however, “I always carried a wad of keys that was hooked on to my belt, right kind of in front, keys to everything, and people would laugh at me about old grandma with her keys. It ended up that the bullet came out.”
“I had flash burns from the bullet all on my side and stomach,” she said. “The bullet went through the speed loader case. Thank God it didn’t hit one of them because I had two speed loaders, fully loaded. It went through the speed loader case and ended up hitting my keys.
“The keys deflected it but the keys got into pieces and they were sent into my stomach. It went into my left foot which I didn’t even know that at the time, I just remember my stomach was burning. We got in the ambulance and we got about midway to Searcy; that’s when the old CHE hospital was there, that’s where they took me.”
She said they learned the bullet had struck her foot when “all at once my foot just started burning and I hollered, I said, ‘What in heavens?’ (That’s not what I said ... that my foot was hurting.” It looked to me, when I looked at my boot, like it was the parting of the Red Sea. It just split the boot. It ended up it hit my big toe. It took the top part of the toe, not enough to worry about really.”
Cook said the sentence for the shooting was “11 years in the pen on charges of attempted capital murder.” The shooter also “was supposed to be deported back to Turkey but I think it was two years after that he was out of prison. I wasn’t notified about any type of release. That made me mad. As far as I know, he’s walking the streets of Hot Springs. That’s where he was living at the time and he ended up, up here.”