TEXARKANA, Ark. — A hitchhiker deliberately caused a multi-vehicle wreck that killed an Arkansas chief deputy who was driving him to a homeless shelter, a prosecutor said.
Lafayette County Chief Deputy Pete Richardson, 50, was driving Michael Ackart to a shelter in Texarkana, Texas, on Monday when the crash happened near Lewisville, Ark., prosecuting attorney Carlton Jones said.
According to an affidavit, Ackart, of Tulsa, Okla., told police he was sitting in the front passenger seat of the law enforcement vehicle when he leaned over and grabbed the steering wheel, causing the deadly crash.
"He (Richardson) was just trying to do the right thing. He was trying to help this guy out," Jones said Tuesday.
Richardson was pronounced dead at the scene. One other driver involved in the wreck was also taken to a hospital.
Ackart has been jailed without bond on suspicion of second-degree murder and made his initial court appearance Tuesday before Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson, a local newspaper reported Wednesday. Ackart told the judge he did not have an attorney and Johnson scheduled another court appearance for Ackart on April 4.
Police found Ackart in the town of Stamps on Monday, where he told authorities he was trying to get home to Tulsa. Richardson was already planning a trip to Texarkana to investigate an unrelated case, so he offered to give Ackart a ride to the Randy Sams' Outreach Shelter, police said.
After the crash, witnesses told police that Ackart walked out of Richardson's vehicle and said he was "sorry" and "didn't mean to do it." According to the affidavit, Ackart told ambulance personnel and Arkansas State Police investigators that he grabbed the steering wheel.