No one stopped James Ray Palmer as he walked into a rural courthouse unusually dressed for a simmering Arkansas afternoon in a long coat, hiding two handguns and an assault rifle. With no metal detectors or guards at the building’s six entrances to deter him, he asked to speak to a judge. Then he opened fire.
Before dying after a shootout with police, Palmer injured a receptionist and terrified workers at the Crawford County courthouse in Van Buren, a rural town near the Oklahoma border. He also highlighted the vulnerability of the state’s many small, rural courthouses where the guards, armed police and metal detectors common in larger cities are often too expensive.