SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Greene County Sheriff is responding to allegations surrounding a video making rounds on social media.
Advocate Christie Love believes Greene County deputies set a fire, burning items belonging to homeless people after evacuating an illegal encampment on private property on February 10.
Love says she was not at the camp to witness the events but says after speaking to many who were present individually, she says their stories lined up.
“They told campers that they had 2 minutes to gather their belongings,” Love said. “They stepped away and watched as deputies poured gasoline on their tents and ignited the tents.”
KOLR10 sat down with Sheriff Arnott Thursday afternoon.
Arnott says his deputies didn’t light a match to anything.
“We identified there are at least 12 areas, large areas of debris, but we looked at the most hazardous locations,” Arnott said. “We raked and used pitchforks and things like that and piled them up in piles.”
Arnott told KOLR10 reporters he knows who set the fire but is keeping that person’s identity confidential for safety reasons.
KOLR10 has requested body cam footage from deputies but the Greene County Sheriff’s Office says it does not use body cameras.
The allegations began when Love posted a video of a smoldering fire on Facebook.
“I got a phone call from an advocate who had been in touch with those campers,” Love said. “This advocate walked back into the camp with them and took a video that they immediately texted to me.”
Arnott says the video being taken could be considered trespassing too.
“Somebody came back and trespassed on the property and took a video, which is another huge issue,” Arnott said.
Love says despite a lack of evidence, she believes the campers in that camp on that day.
“Remember, you’re dealing with a really vulnerable population that don’t always have phones,” Love said. “They don’t always have access to cameras.”
Sheriff Arnott says he’s simply following the law.
“We have empathy and we do what we can to help, but, you know, my primary job as sheriff is law and order.”
This is something Love agrees with, but her biggest issues are the burning of anything campers could have been important that was left behind or an overall lack of resources in the area.
“Landowners and business owners end up bearing an unfair amount of burden for our lack of shelter. I fully recognize that,” Love said. “We must create more shelter spaces to take the burden off of landowners and business owners.”
Arnott suggested in a press release, and in person, advocates like Love should open their spaces to reduce illegal camping.
“I know her church is on West Chestnut Expressway. I hope to see tents and a camp set up in her front parking lot,” Arnott said.
“I’ve brought individuals that are unsheltered into my home, into my guestroom,” Love said in response to the comment in the press release. “I’ve worked hard to create respite house spaces in the city to give them a place to go.”
Arnott reaffirms he is fighting for the citizens saying, “I operate by what my constituents want me to do And when people call and you live in my jurisdiction, I’m coming to help you.”
Arnott and Love say recent situations with encampments have spurned outreach from the community.
Arnott says local businesses have reached out to help clean up camps for free, while Love says those arrested for trespassing are able to work their volunteer hours at The Connecting Grounds cleaning up other campsites.