Marked Tree fire fighter charged with theft from the department rehired

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 4:40 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 7:54 AM CST
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MARKED TREE, Ark. (KAIT) – A former Marked Tree fire fighter charged with theft from the department was rehired by the same department.

According to Chief Thomas Plunk, the department voted to rehire Jackie Ragan, who is facing felony theft charges, at a meeting on Tuesday night as the department’s training officer after Plunk approached Ragan to rejoin the department.

According to a court affidavit, Ragan failed to return fire fighter gear and a radio worth more than $3,000 to the department in 2022. Ragan was found not guilty of those misdemeanor charges in Nov. 2022. Ragan was also charged with felony theft in Sharp County after deputies said he stole a camper from River Bend Park (See video below).

Plunk, who was promoted to fire chief in Nov. 2022, said despite multiple media reports on the charges, and having been the Marked Tree assistant fire chief at the time of the charges being filed against Ragan, he was not aware of the still pending felony charges.

“He ain’t go no felonies against him,” Plunk told Region 8 News anchor and investigative reporter Chris Carter. When asked if the charges were dropped, Plunk said “they have not charged him.”

Online court records showed Ragan was initially charged in 2022. The Second Judicial Prosecutor’s Office told Region 8 News the felony charges against Ragan have not been dropped.

“If the charges are charges that something are still standing, would that be a problem for you? Would you guys keep him on the department?” Carter asked Chief Plunk.

The chief responded he “would just have to see” before asking how Carter got his number.

Chief Plunk said the department did not do a background check on Ragan before rehiring him on March 7, and went on to describe plans from lawmakers to make it illegal for fire fighters to have felonies.

“I mean right now, the way the rules state in Arkansas, they’re trying to pass it where you can’t be on the volunteer fire department, or a fire department with a felony,” Plunk said. “It has been brought to the floor, is what I think they said, and if they pass it and whoever is on the fire department when they pass it, will be grandfathered in and there will not be no more felons on the fire department.”

When asked by Carter if the department rehired Ragan before the unconfirmed legislation Plunk mentioned to “grandfather” him in, Plunk said “No, no. I just found that out last night.”

Marked Trees’ Mayor Danny Johnson did not respond to calls from Region 8 News, but in a video provided to the station by a viewer from the meeting where Ragan was rehired, he also echoed the fire chief’s statements Ragan was not facing charges (See video below).

“Everyone is innocent until they are found guilty,” Johnson said.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Ragan is set to appear in court on the felony charges on March 31st.

Ragan also used to be a police captain with the Marked Tree Police Department.

Marked Tree Mayor Danny Johnson and resident Tonya Carpenter discuss Ragan’s rehiring:

Marked Tree Fire Chief Thomas Plunk and Region 8 News’ Chris Carter discuss Ragan’s rehiring:

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