PRAIRIE GROVE, Ark. (BP)–A 12-year-old boy who was wounded May 11 in an exchange of gunfire with a police officer had been baptized just months before the incident, according to members of his Baptist church in Prairie Grove, Ark. He had never been in any serious trouble and was active in church youth activities, leaving community residents baffled over how he could be involved in such an incident.
News reports indicate that the youth, Michael Nichols, had a fight with a classmate and had skipped two days of school, including the day of the shooting. Two different motorists notified authorities of suspicious behavior by the youngster near his school. Police officer Greg Lovett, along with school superintendent Tom Louks and Upper Elementary School principal Pete Bennett began searching for the truant boy.
Lovett spotted Nichols lying in a field and called for him to stand up. Nichols allegedly stood and fired a shotgun loaded with birdshot, hitting Lovett with pellets in the face, neck, chest, back and buttocks. Lovett reportedly returned fire, hitting Nichols in the abdomen. Nichols was in stable condition after surgery at Washington Regional Medical Center. Lovett was treated and released.
Nichols reportedly was on his way toward the school with the weapon, although his intentions were not known.
Nichols and his family are members of First Baptist Church, Prairie Grove, which immediately launched a prayer chain for both the Nichols family and the Lovett family.
“Michael had just been baptized a few months ago,” said Ken McElveen, a member of the church.
“The family has been very faithful and active in the church for many years,” added Marge McElveen, the church’s WMU director. “Michael grew up in the church. His older sister was in the youth group and is very active. We’re devastated that this has happened and nobody knows what motivated it. Michael came from a good, solid background.”
McElveen said Michael’s father, Tom, recently has been leading music at the church on a volunteer basis.
Andrew Hall, interim pastor of the church, told a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that church members have been very supportive of the Nichols family. “They are rallying to the family even though they don’t understand what all has happened,” he said.
Church members described Nichols as a normal kid. Neither they nor his classmates could understand why he had the gun or why he shot at Lovett.