Grace Under Pressure: Sheriff Cody Carpenter

Author’s Note: Grace Under Pressure is an on-going series of posts honoring everyday people who courageously  make positive differences in their own lives and consequently in the lives of others. It is my own personal affirmation that unexpected heroes reside among us and that they serve as  quiet but unshakable proof that virtue really is its own reward  – and ours, too.

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

482805_346016882165537_133058477_nOn the blog, we justifiably point out the civil rights abuses we see committed by our law enforcement. Clothed with police power and enormous discretion to affect our lives and the lives of our family and friends, we expect more from them than the average citizen in terms of sensitivity to our wellbeing. When pointing out those abuses we do well to remember there is another side, too, when we get much more than we expect.

Scott County, Arkansas is a hardscrabble place with a population just over 11,000. That’s a little less that the number in 1900 and the 3000 or so families that live there trace their community’s roots back to the times of President James Monroe. The terrain is rugged as you’d expect from the land smack dab in the middle of the Ouachita Mountains (derived from the bastardized Choctaw words for “large buffaloes”), and the folks there are as independent, hardy, and proud as you would expect from people whose closest neighbor is often a mile or so away. The hollers, crags, and slopes of the Large Buffaloes mountains are criss-crossed with little streams and runs that give the scene a bucolic vista that attracts painters and photographers. Those streams form the Fourche La Fave River which runs about 150 miles through some of Arkansas’ most undisturbed, idyllic countryside. It may not be Heaven, but to outdoor enthusiasts it’s close.

Cody Carpenter was a “lifer” in law enforcement terms as well as in Scott County terms. Born and raised in the county seat at Waldron and knowing most everybody and every place in this highland community, he was a natural for public service. Starting with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office in 1996 he rose through the ranks enforcing traffic laws, investigating burglaries, rounding up loose livestock, and checking door knobs late at night in his hometown. In 2004, he was elected sheriff and then kept the job in four subsequent elections all with a very simple idea about what his job was about. “It’s (about) caring for the people and earnestly trying to improve the county we live in for the better,” he said when asked.

Early Friday morning, the people of Scott County would see just how much Cody Carpenter cared. Thursday night a storm moved through western Arkansas, and the skies opened up. Rain fell in torrents on the slopes of the Large Buffaloes and those bucolic streams and runs became flash flooding gushers. “The water just comes off that hill like someone is pouring a bucket in there,” said Danny Straessle, a spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. “This was an incredible amount of water.” About six inches of rain fell  in eight hours  in the lampless blackness of Scott County and  the Fourche La Fave jumped 23 feet.

Distress calls came pouring in to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office. One call from two women trapped in their home by the rising waters on Mill Creek was particularly alarming. Sheriff Carpenter and Arkansas game warden Joel Campora jumped in the patrol SUV with boat in tow and took off towards the swamped home. Carpenter and Campora were the first to arrive at the house and saw the flood waters engulfing the residence. Unhitching the boat, they made their way towards the man-made enclave in the rushing torrent. “As they approached the residence, they noticed that flooding waters were rising rapidly. [Within moments],  other deputies on scene heard a loud crash,” Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck explained Friday afternoon during a news conference. The tiny house had imploded from the overwhelming force of the water. Despite heroic efforts to save them, all four bodies were swept away.

Sheriff Carpenter’s body was found downstream on Mill Creek on Friday morning around 8:00 a.m. As his gurney passed, law enforcement officials and volunteers with the Red Cross in Arkansas lined the road in silent tribute as Carpenter’s body was escorted back from where he was found. As of yesterday, the two women and Joel Campora were unaccounted for. Flags were lowered to half-staff in Waldron as the community mourned the loss of its heroic native son and his equally heroic companion.

“He was the best sheriff I’ve ever seen and that’s as far as I’ll go,” said Scott County Judge James Forbes. State Rep. Terry Rice, R-Ark., who’s known the sheriff’s family for many years, said of his Democratic friend: “He wasn’t satisfied behind the desk, and that was Cody. He’s hands on, and that’s what he was doing in the early morning hours this morning is trying to help people.”

Imagine climbing into a tiny boat in the face of a rushing wall of water whose roar you can clearly hear but that you can only see by the light of your flashlight. Then imagine doing that only because your neighbors have pinned a badge to your chest and placed their safety in your hands.  The words “grace under pressure” don’t capture half of that kind of courage.

Cody leaves his wife Amie and his four children, Garren, Christian, Douglas and Irelynn. Even amid their grief, they must be very proud.

Source: KFSM News 5

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

32 thoughts on “Grace Under Pressure: Sheriff Cody Carpenter

  1. It’s oh so easy to disparage those in law enforcement because of a select few who tarnish their badge. However, let us remember the men like Cody Capenter and their unflinching devotion, whose unselfish deeds will forever keep that badge shining brightly.

  2. A “WORLD-CLASS HERO”, They’re deserving of a “Heroes Memorial Day” of their own.

  3. There are people who are truly heroic, sadly much of the time we laud those for heroism that isn’t. Risking your life to save others is an ultimately heroic act, especially because how many of us would do what Sheriff Carpenter did?

  4. It is sad that these stories are rarely told. As bad as some officers can be I would venture to guess most are more in this mold. After all, how many of us, or most people would run toward the danger as opposed to away?

  5. Terrible news. We don’t hear enough about men like Sheriff Carpenter. You would not be able to tell it by the tabloid press and YouTube videos, but there are far more good and decent officers out there than bad ones. Most officers just want to finish their shift, do their job to the best of their ability, and go home to their families at the end of their shift.

    I have known two sheriffs personally who died in the line of duty, and it is always a blow to the very social fabric of the community. One of them was Sheriff Osborne Bell of Marshall County, Mississippi. He was one of the first black men in the country to be elected sheriff.

    Simpson County, Mississippi has lost an unusual number of sheriffs and officers for a small rural county. I knew Sheriff Lloyd Silas Jones and his wife. Lloyd and a trusty were running errands on county business, and had stopped by his house for a few minutes. The trusty was a well-liked regular at the jail, somewhat like the character “Otis” in the “Andy Griffith Show.” Both men were gunned down in Lloyd’s own front yard by a guy who had been hunting him, literally.

    Sheriff Jones’ successor, Sheriff E. C. Mullins, was killed in 2001.

  6. Sheriff Carpenter sounds like a good one. My heart goes out to his family and friends, he no doubt touched many lives.

    Frank Pitz-
    “It’s oh so easy to disparage those in law enforcement because of a select few who tarnish their badge.”

    I’ve known enough LEOs to know that most are great people with real dedication to the job. The problem is that when the “bad apples” do what they do, they are virtually never condemned by “the good ones”. Instead, the wagons are circled with almost complete disregard for how horrific the act was.

  7. Lyneuss Fields,
    What kind of question is that? What do you mean by “proper rescue squad?” You must not know much about living in the mountains, or rural areas, for that matter. The county seat of Waldron only has about 900 households. The only other town in the county is Mansfield, with fewer than 300 families living there. Everything else is rural–900 square miles of rural.

    Much of the landscape is nearly vertical, runoff filling every creek and stream so fast it has to be seen to be believed. Every available person was doing their best. Out in the county, there is no fire department, unless they are volunteer departments.

    So I am most interested in what a “proper rescue squad” means.

  8. He was a true hero. Prayers for his family and for the wildlife officer and the two women they were trying to save. Country like that is hard to navigate around and with storms like that, even worse. Time is essential to the safety of all, sometimes there just isn’t enough.

  9. “You would not be able to tell it by the tabloid press and YouTube videos, but there are far more good and decent officers out there than bad ones. ”
    ~ Otteray Scribe
    yup, also…You would not be able to tell it by the tabloid press and YouTube videos, but there are far more good and decent peoples out there than bad ones.

  10. Carpenters have served their people since the 1600s in America. They have fought in wars, served locally, served in the State & on the Federal levels since the USA became a Country. Sometimes they have given their all for us – We the People!
    From one retired peace officer to Sheriff Cody Carpenter’s family, we know he gave his all to save others. God Bless you and your Family.
    John R. Carpenter

  11. Lyneuss Fields,
    There are times, when your ass is in a wringer, you’re incapable of waiting for “the proper” assistance. I’ve seen Cops put out Fires, EMTs apprehend a murderer, Firefighters become negotiators. Each isn’t the “right person” for that job. Not by training, not by job title, not by experience.

    As Otteray Scribe said: you must not be “rural” or you’d understand the difficultly in effecting a rescue, when the people who need the services may be on the wrong side of a washed-out bridge. That truck’s not coming.

    In most States a Game Warden is a jack-of-all-trades LEO. They enforce the laws, find the lost, aid the wounded – and effect river/lake rescues. They’re the inland equivalent of the Coast Guard.

    Add Otteray’s other comment: If a flash storm, with rapidly worsening conditions was the cause of this calamity, then getting a dispersed rural volunteer force to the Fire House in-time, would have been impossible.

    This wouldn’t be the case for a tropical storm, or other such long-term/slow-moving threat. The volunteers would be in-house and available for immediate response.
    They could however, still be on the wrong side of the river.

    These men, a Carpenter or not, gave all in service to their constituents.
    Our politicians should take heed of what selfless devotion looks like.

    John, well said cousin.

  12. Thank you for this. I knew Cody all his life and want to say he was a Godly man, loving husband and father. He and his wife raised their children by example. He loved his children and he was so proud to be their father. He will be missed.

  13. For those of us from Scott county a proper rescue squad is none other than our friends and neighbors and those from surrounding towns that care enough to drop everything to help their fellow man…that doesn’t require special training, just kind,giving and caring hearts.

  14. @Mark Esposito, beautifully written article! I’ve known Cody over 20 years, worked with him at Walmart before he went into law enforcement. If you ever met him, you would be taken by his easy smile, and his genuine compassion for everyone in need. And if you ever needed him, you knew you could count on him. He selflessly served the citizens of Scott County, with a compassion and kindness that will never be forgotten.

  15. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 May the angels of the Lord escort the souls of these servants to the face of Jesus where they will hear “Well done good and faithful servants” Matthew 25:21

  16. There are many more unsung heros out there who risk their lives everyday to help others. These are foks from all walks of life. Being in law enforcement is a profession the other heros give of themselves voluntarily. They are the ones that truly never get recognized.

  17. every day that goes by you will be thought of, ,and your legacy will live on through your wonderful family.

  18. As not only a Friend and fellow Law Enforcement Officer I can and will attest to the writers description Cody. Cody gave me the honor being a Reserve Deputy a while back.I have not yet had the chance to work in that postition due to other constraints associated with my current job. Cody was planning on putting me on full time in the future. He told me after my last interview a few months back ” Brother,you gave me one outstanding interview and I know you will do the citizens of Scott County right” I wish I had the chance now to show Cody how right he was about me. My goal now is to model my Career, my Faith, and my Personal life after Cody Carpenter’s example. He was the epitome of the word Hero, and to me he will always be a brother as well. We miss you Cody,We will take the watch from here and keep your example of how to be a Officer in the forefront of how we do our Jobs. I know without a doubt that I wont let you down.Rest now knowing you have done your job well.

  19. Beautifully written… I’d also like to update that the game warden and the two women that were missing were located this afternoon… Joel Campora, the game warden, and both women, unfortunately were not found alive. God Bless their families. All gave some, but some gave all…

  20. mespo continues to be a ray of sunshine in these doom and gloom weekends. Great piece, as always.

  21. He is a hero of New England Yankee origin! He is a direct descendant of the founder of Rhode Island, William Carpenter!

  22. This design is steller! You definitely know how to keep a reader entertained.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well,
    almost…HaHa!) Excellent job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.

    Too cool!

Comments are closed.