An alleged murder suspect who was on the run on Saturday in Conway is still at large, police were reporting on Monday.
At around dawn on Saturday Garland County police investigating a fatal shooting there notified the Conway Police Department that they had reason to believe the suspect, identified as Steve Swanigan, 30, was at a motel on Oak Street in Conway.
Garland County police made contact with a woman in the motel room where Swanigan was believed to be, and tried to confirm through her the identity of the man inside, according to CPD public information officer Sean Canady.
At some point early Saturday morning, the man believed to be Swanigan made a break for it and was able to flee from the motel property on foot and into a residential/commercial area. That area is bordered by Museum Road, Collier Drive and North Creek Drive — just east of I-40 and north of East Oak Street. A perimeter was set up quickly, Canady said on Saturday, and it was hoped that the suspect hadn't slipped past it.
"If he slipped through [the perimeter], he did it really quick," Canady said on Monday.
Police searched the businesses inside the perimeter and in fields and creekbeds and ditches. A number of business owners were contacted and gave officers permission to search their properties.
A police search of homes in the area would have required a reasonable belief by officers that the suspect was in a specific home, and/or that the suspect posed an immediate danger to the people inside. Police didn’t have this information, Canady said, and so house-to-house searches without homeowner consent would have been impermissible under the 4th Amendment.
By around 11 a.m. the search was completed and the perimeter was dismantled.
A set of keys including the key to a car police believe Swanigan and the woman drove to Conway in was found in a creekbed. The car has been impounded as evidence, and Garland County authorities took the woman in for questioning, Canady said.
According to information provided to the Log Cabin by Hot Springs Sentinel-Record reporter Mark Gregory, Swanigan is one of two men wanted in connection with a fatal shooting on April 30 in Garland County.
According to the Sentinel-Record, one of the two men kicked open the door of an apartment carrying and started shooting at the people inside. Mayela Mata, 26, died in St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Hot Springs. She had been shot in the head. Her 20-month-old daughter was shot in the side, and was reported to be in stable but critical condition at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
A neighbor came to the apartment after hearing the gunshots and kept pressure on the child’s side to help stop the bleeding until paramedics arrived, according to the Sentinel-Record, and another neighbor drove after the shooter as he fled in a car, but couldn’t keep up.
A third adult male victim was shot in the back, but was treated and released at St. Vincent’s.
Swanigan is described as a black male about 6’ 2" and 180 pounds. He is to be considered armed and dangerous, and should not be approached.
The Garland County Sheriff’s Department is holding a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter.
To report an anonymous tip, call GCSD’s anonymous tip line at 501-622-3674.