BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — The local motorcycle community is feeling the loss of Benton County Sheriff’s Detective Paul Newell.
“I was in shock,” said Paul Kuehn, a friend of Det. Newell’s.
“It’s affected the whole biker community,” said Todd Atkins, Founder of Border Riders, which is a local motorcycle riding group.
Kuehn said Det. Newell touched a lot of lives through his love of motorcycle riding.
“He was a motor officer trainer for Benton County, so when you look at the number of officers that they have that are certified to ride, from Siloam Springs to Bella Vista, Paul had a hand in bringing on a lot of those officers to be certified to ride motorcycles,” he said.
Det. Newell died in a motorcycle crash Saturday morning. He was helping escort a truck with wreaths to the Fayetteville National Cemetery for the Wreaths Across America event.
Atkins said he was volunteering at the cemetery for that event. He remembers the confusion as they waited for the third truck full of wreaths to arrive.
“We were shuttling people back and forth and I got a call and I was notified about the accident,” he said. “It was shocking to say the least.”
KNWA/FOX24 interviewed Atkins and Kuehn at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, where a memorial is placed in honor of Det. Newell. It includes a motorcycle covered in flowers and topped with Newell’s helmet.
“As I sit here and I look at the bike and I look at everything, it really hasn’t set in yet,” said Kuehn.
It hasn’t set in for him that his friend died doing something he loved: riding his motorcycle while serving his community.
His death brings up the question of motorcycle safety and the safety of police escorts.
“Motor officers make up the top 2% of riders in the world,” said Kuehn.
Kuehn is a motorcycle safety instructor and runs Ride Like a Pro Arkansas. He said motor police officers have to go through two full weeks of training to get that title.
He said Newell’s death is a tragic accident that doesn’t happen often in the law enforcement world.
“This year alone, there’s been 219 line of duty deaths of officers of that 219, only three of those have been motorcycle crashes,” he said.
He also said police escorts are an important part of the job. They bring a sense of pageantry and significance to their escorts, but they also create a connection.
“The police motorcycle draws folks in to have a conversation,” he said. “Whether its someone who rides and is interested in what the police motorcycles are all about or even kids who have dreams of being a motor officer one day. It is a very effective means to bridge the relationship to the community.:
Atkins and Kuehn say the motorcycle community is like a family and they are grieving the loss of their brother.
“He was an avid rider and he did so much for our community,” said Atkins.
“He will desperately be missed in this community and in this department,” said Kuehn.
Atkins said the Border Riders plan on participating in Det. Newell’s funeral procession.
That service is happening on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 10:30 a.m. at Cross Church in Rogers.
The public is invited to attend. The Benton County Sheriff’s Office is asking that instead of flowers, people put their money towards three local non profits in honor of Det. Newell: the Maysville 4-H Club, the NWA Children’s Shelter, and the Benton County Children’s Advocacy Center.