PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - It's a high risk job with low pay. Bondsmen hire bounty hunters because they don't want to deal with that risk.
Last month, two bounty hunters were gunned down execution style in Arizona, by a man who saw them taking away his friend.
A bounty hunter captures fugitives, called "skips", for a monetary reward which is called a bounty. "I go catch people who skip bond. I'm always packing heat. This is how I eat dinner, how I feed my family," said Matt Arnold, who is President of Finders Bail Enforcement . He wears a black protective bullet proof vest with a gun holstered on his chest.
"I've chased people driving on a suspended license, and I've chased people who stabbed someone 42 times," Matt added.
Bounty hunter Matt Arnold's been at this since November 2007. Rob Schieber's been along for the ride the last two years. "There are days we go out, and we may hit eight or nine houses, and get nothing. There are some days we go out, and go to the first address, and arrest someone in 20 minutes."
Arnold pulls in 15-17 bond skippers a month.
WAVY News 10's Andy Fox went along for the ride as Arnold and Schieber searched for skippers.
Michael Scott failed to show up to court on March 19, so now he's considered a fugitive and the bounty hunters want to find him. He knows he's a fugitive because he told the bondsman, who is on the hook for the bond, he's turning himself in.
Their first stop was Scott's home, where he lives with his girlfriend and father. "It looks like the car is not here," said Arnold. He wasn't home, but Scott's dad was.
Arnold: "I guess you know why we are here."
Scott's dad: "He went to court."
Arnold: "No, sir. He didn't go to court."
Scott's dad: "He took my car."
Arnold: "Yes, he is still in your car, but he didn't go to court."
While all this was going on, Schieber guarded the back door making sure no one ducked out the back. "We hear it all the time. 'I got lost on the way to court.' We hear it all," Schieber explained.
Scott wasn't home, so the bounty hunters moved on to the next case. "We will run to the Oceanfront, and tackle this other guy," said Arnold. He does not get paid unless he finds the "skip."
That other guy was Zack Crowe. He failed to appear and is on the run. When they arrived at his apartment, they knew they were at the right place. "Look at this, here's his pay stub. It's right here in the window," Arnold said. The landlord agreed to let Arnold in, but then Crowe's roommate returned home. Arnold told him, "I have a warrant for him. Either you open the door, or I get a key, or I kick your door down. It's simple. Those are the options." The roommate decided to let Arnold in. Crowe was not in the apartment.
The hunt for Zach was suddenly put on hold because there was a Michael Scott sighting.
Arnold says with urgency, "We're heading to a location an informant gave us." Michael Scott's father's car was spotted at a home in Cradock in Portsmouth. As soon as they arrived, Arnold walked up to the threshold of the house, but he didn't enter right away. Instead he carried on a conversation with a woman inside who lived there. She explained that Michael was not there. Since this was not Michael's home, it is considered a third party home.
Arnold: "Mind if I search your house?"
Homeowner: "Can I ask you for what reason?"
Arnold: "Yea, I got a warrant for her husband."
Homeowner: "You got a warrant for her husband? I do mind if you search my house. I got kids. I'm going to call the police."
Arnold: "You can call the police all you want. I'm coming in to search your house. I know he's here."
Arnold did not enter the home because he can only enter the home of a third party if he sees the suspect with his own eyes, or the owner confirms the suspect is in the house, and that is exactly what happened next.
Homeowner: "I will get him for you."
Only then did Matt enter the home. He got 100% confirmation Scott is in the house.
Arnold: "Where's he at?"
Homeowner: "Please no guns. I have children."
Arnold: "Ma'am, you will go to jail. Please stop. You will go to jail."
Homeowner: "Mike come down. Mike come down."
Arnold eventually found Michael, who was hiding in an upstairs bedroom. "Let me see your hands. Let me see your hands. Up against the wall. Up against the wall. Don't move. Face the other way. Don't move your hand or I will break it. Deal?"
Arnold and Schieber got their man. When asked why he didn't show up for court, Scott responded, "I didn't know I had a court date today." That is not what he told his bondsman earlier in the day, or his father. He told them both he was turning himself in.
Arnold let Scott say good bye to his wife. They kiss and she cries.
The bounty hunters got more than just Scott. They got Zack later that night. Then on May 1 they got Marlin Hartfields in Virginia Beach, Arlene Robertson in Chesapeake, Harlow Spurlock in Richmond, and Joseph Turner Jr. in Hampton.
The risk-reward is low in bounty hunting. Matt Arnold gets the
bond that the bondsman put up for the suspect. That is usually 10 percent. Michael Scott's bond was $5,000. That means the bondsman put up$500. Now that goes to Matt, and the bondsman gets nothing.
Some believe what bounty hunters like Matt do is illegal. One of those people is Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson. "I think they think they are above the law. Sometimes they ask for our assistance. I say absolutely not."
What are the laws that govern bounty hunters? what does a leading instructor for bounty hunters say about Matt Arnold's tactics? Why won't Sheriff Watson help out the bounty hunters?
We will have that part of the story Thursday night on WAVY News 10.
Click on the following links to find out more about bounty hunters and what it takes to become one:
Bail Bondsman – Recovery Authorization Form:
Surety's Capias and Bailpiece Release forms:
Bail Enforcement Agent Checklist
Bail Bondsman – Recovery Form
Bail Enforcement Agent – Initial License Application
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