PEA RIDGE, Ark. -- A woman accused of running over and killing a police officer in Arkansas was facing multiple low-level theft and drug cases at the time and had a record of now showing up in court, authorities say.
Each time she was arrested, Shawna Cash, 22, ended up being released from jail, partly because of coronavirus precautions to reduce jail populations, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Cash is accused of hitting Pea Ridge officer Kevin Apple with her car and dragging him after he approached the vehicle at a convenience store, according to court documents. Authorities say the vehicle matched the description of one that was sought by police.
Cash was arrested Saturday along with passenger Elijah Andazola, 18. Neither Cash nor Andazola have been formally charged in Apple's death.
Matt Durrett, prosecutor in Washington County, where Cash has three open or reopened theft and drug cases, said the system failed in Cash's case. He noted that he had authorized law enforcement officers to issue citations for low-level, nonviolent felonies. At the same time, there was a huge backlog of cases stemming from the courts being closed to most in-person proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She kept getting out, kept getting released, and COVID's not an excuse, it’s an explanation for it,” said Durrett. “That’s the reason for it, trying to keep the numbers down.”
To be released on a low-level felony offense, the person can't have a failure-to-appear charge. Durrett said Cash failed to appear twice, but the backlog meant a warrant had not been issued for her.
Tim Helder, the sheriff in Washington County, where Cash faces six cases, also noted none of those charges involved violence.
Durrett said Cash’s case is a “particularly bitter pill” because it led to the death of a police officer.
“It’s still a kick in the gut to realize that she had failed to appear and had been arrested multiple times. A missed opportunity” to get her off the streets, he said.
Judges Monday ordered Cash and Andazola to be held without bail in the Benton County jail.