Residents of a Rural Arkansas County Grapple With Endemic Gun Violence

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Health

ELAINE, Ark. — On a recent September afternoon, Courtney Porter counted his losses: his mom from old age, his wife from diabetes complications, two of his brothers. While one died of an aneurysm, the shooting death last year of his younger brother, Patro, hit the hardest.

“It tore me up, real bad,” said Porter, 50, from the Stop N Shop, a defunct gas station that is now a convenience shop. “I’ll never get over it.”

Patro, who was 46 when he died, was a barber. He had even cut the hair of the man, then 20, who is accused of shooting him after an argument over a cigarette.

For this tightknit town of 500, situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River and surrounded by soy and cotton fields, the killing was both shocking and senseless, Porter said.

“Everybody here gets along,” he said. “Everybody had a question, like, ‘Why? Why? Why did he do this?’”

Patro Porter’s death wasn’t an isolated incident. Phillips County, where Elaine is located, is home to about 15,000 people spread across 690 square miles. Data shows they’re at high risk of gun violence. From 2016 to 2020, the county had the country’s highest per capita rate of gun homicides, according to an analysis last year by the Center for American Progress, a policy research institute.

Elaine, Arkansas, is in Phillips County. From 2016 to 2020 …

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