FORREST CITY, Ark. (WMC) - The brother of one of the police officers critically injured in the Forrest City Walmart shooting said his brother is still alive by the grace of God. WMC Action News 5 talked with him during a community prayer service on Wednesday night.
Forrest City Police Detective Eugene Watlington is currently in ICU at Regional One Medical Center. His older brother, Tommy, said Gene was shot twice, the bullets barely missing his heart. Tommy’s church, Ridgewood Baptist, held a prayer service for the victims and for the first responders. Members of the community were invited to attend.
Detective Watlington’s family formed a circle in the front of the sanctuary and joined hands as prayers were said for him and for Lt. Eric Varner, who was also injured during Monday’s incident. Senior Pastor Jim Whaley also asked that the family of Bobby Gibbs, who investigators identified as the gunman, be kept in the thoughts and prayers of everyone as well. Gibbs was shot and killed by police. He’d reportedly been making threats in the Walmart before police were called to intervene. It’s unknown what set him off that morning.
Pastor Whaley then asked all first responders to stand and receive a round of applause for their efforts saving lives during the shooting.
“This has rocked us for a minute,” Pastor Whaley told WMC Action News 5. “You know, it kind of set us back on our heels. But the town is resilient. It has come together unlike anything I’ve seen.”
Tommy Watlington is a captain with the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Office. He saw his baby brother Gene lying on the floor of that Walmart in a pool of blood. Cpt. Watlington’s resolve to get up every day, put on his uniform and go out to protect and serve his community is even stronger now after his brother’s shooting.
“We knew what we were getting into when we got into this profession,” he told WMC Action News 5. “We know there might be a time we might not come home. You just gotta leave it all in God’s hands and just do the best you can.”
Detective Watlington’s wife works security at the Walmart and was there when her husband was shot. Cpt. Watlington said it’s been tough on his family, but they’re confident Gene will pull through. He’s on a ventilator, but sat up in bed Wednesday and even walked a little. He has serious internal injuries and faces a long road to recovery. Lt. Varner was treated and released the same day as the shooting.