LITTLE ROCK — Charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct against a member of the state Game and Fish Commission who reportedly was drunk and fired a weapon in public are “pretty serious,” but no one should rush to judgment, Gov. Mike Beebe said Wednesday.
Commissioner Richard Watkins, 54, of Little Rock, was free Wednesday following his arrest Tuesday evening in Lonoke.
“This is still America, so you withhold final judgment until the process runs, but these allegations are pretty serious, for a Game and Fish commissioner in particular,” said Beebe, whose naming of Watkins to the Game and Fish Commission in June 2007 was among his earliest gubernatorial appointments.
The Lonoke County sheriff’s office said it received a report about 6:37 p.m. Tuesday of a man banging on the windows of a residence and a business next door near the intersection of Arkansas 31 and 70 in Lonoke. A witness told authorities the subject fired a handgun into the ground.
A deputy responded and identified the man as Watkins, a Little Rock businessman. He was arrested without incident and taken to the Lonoke County Detention Facility.
A spokeswoman at the jail said Wednesday that Watkins was released “sometime Tuesday” but would not say under what circumstances.
“This is a real serious matter,” Game and Fish spokesman Keith Stephens said Wednesday, adding that the agency wants to see how the situation unfolds before commenting further.
“Let’s don’t speculate,” Beebe said. “It’s a serious allegation. Let’s wait for it to play out and we’ll see what happens.”
Under the Arkansas Constitution, the governor may remove a member of the Game and Fish Commission, for good cause, after a hearing. The governor’s decision can be appealed to circuit court and from there to the state Supreme Court.