2021: Top stories in NWA and River Valley

Northwest Arkansas News

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — 2021 has been a year of big news here in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley, from continued coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, to a local man’s involvement in the Capitol insurrection to some big Razorback wins.

It was a year of trophies coming back to the hill, COVID-19 vaccines going into arms and a local tv celebrity appearing in a courtroom, but a different case captured the attention of Northwest Arkansasat at the start of the year.

Just six days into 2021, the nation watched as hundreds breached the U.S Capitol. One of those was Richard Barnett, of Gravette, photographed with his feet up on a desk inside.

He’s one of 700 charged in the Capitol insurrection.

When he returned to NWA, Barnett turned himself into the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. He faces several federal charges from disorderly conduct to entering a restricted building with a deadly weapon.

“When you’re talking about the type of charges many of us got filed against us and the extremes they’ve gone to, it’s out of the ordinary, it’s not normal,” Barnett said.

Barnett is due in court on February 1, 2022.

While we wait for answers in his case, Josh Duggar awaits sentencing. On December 9, a jury found Duggar guilty of both receipt and possession of child pornography.

“This case represents a significant milestone for the Western District of Arkansas and our continued efforts to combat child abuse,” Clay Fowlkes, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas said. “No person is above the law. Regardless of their status in society, regardless of their wealth, regardless of their fame.”

The former reality TV star was arrested in April after child sexual abuse materials were found on his work computer.

His sentencing date hasn’t yet been set, but his attorneys say they will appeal.

While others are still wary of it, the chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19 continues.

As we end 2021, Arkansans five and older are eligible to be vaccinated and those 16 and older who’ve been fully vaccinated for six months are eligible to get a booster shot.

With more variants popping up, it’s still unclear when the pandemic will change to an endemic.

“We just have such a long way to go before we’re there. This is a situation where it’s going to depend on countries to collaborate with each other to ensure that the populations around the world can get vaccines,” State Epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha said.

The Northwest Arkansas community came together to honor fallen Pea Ridge Police Officer Kevin Apple in late June.

The 23-year veteran of law enforcement was hit and killed on June 26 while attempting to stop a car.

“He went above and beyond to make sure everybody felt loved and supported and he did through his own, unique way and that is through humor and through laughter,” former Pea Ridge Police Department Lt. Michael Lisenbee said. “There is a tremendous void that will be difficult to fill for Kevin Apple in this department.”

In his honor, December 12 will forever be known as ‘Officer Kevin Dale Apple Remembrance Day’ after a proclamation was made by the city of Pea Ridge.

A leadership shake-up took place at the University of Arkansas.

In June, Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz abruptly resigned days after KNWA asked the university to explain a social media account showing nude photos of a person appearing to be Steinmetz.

The University of Arkansas has denied it’s him in the photos, calling it “a hoax.” Dr. Charles Robinson was named as the university Interim Chancellor in August.

On the brighter side, Razorback athletics and athletes took home a lot of praise. The 10th-ranked men’s basketball team made it all the way to the Elite 8!

The Diamond Hogs’ ace pitcher got some major praise. Kevin Kopps was named SEC Pitcher of the Year and won the Dick Howser Trophy and the Golden Spikes Award.

“It feels surreal. It is an incredible blessing by God,” Kopps said.

Hogs football brought lots of excitement to Razorback Stadium. Fans rushed the field after the win over the Texas Longhorns.

Head Coach Sam Pittman led the team to an 8-4 record and the team’s first bowl game since 2016.

To kick off 2022, you’ll see the Hogs take the field in Tampa for the Outback Bowl against Penn State on New Year’s Day.

“I can’t wait to get down there to the sunshine of Tampa, Florida and eat a couple of bloomin’ onions,” Pittman said.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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