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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Deputies gone wild?

September 1, 2010
Bill King, Lovely County Citizen

CARROLL COUNTY --Deputies and jailers of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) are using pepper spray and Taser stun-guns to subdue non-compliant detainees, but how often these non-lethal-force weapons are being used by county law enforcement is unknown. According to Sheriff Bob Grudek, county law enforcement officers are not required to submit use-of-force reports to document use of the weapons, and no statistical data on their use is kept.

The Citizen has learned of two recent incidents where pepper spray was used: In one case, an 81-year-old man was sprayed in the face by a deputy who alleges he was threatened by a pair of scissors the man was holding; in another an intoxicated man who was already handcuffed and seatbelted into a police cruiser was sprayed.

And, according to a Berryville police officer, a diabetic man known by jailers to be in insulin shock was Tasered at least twice by a jailer.

A Taser is a weapon that delivers 50,000 volts of electrical current to temporarily incapacitate a subject. Tasers were designed as non-lethal alternatives to using deadly force, however they are frequently used by law enforcement to subdue non-compliant subjects. They have been documented to cause heart failure and death and are particularly dangerous to those under the influence of drugs. Taser use is opposed by Amnesty International and other human rights advocates.

Pepper spray is an inflammatory that causes temporary blindness, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing. It can cause death in asthma sufferers or those taking drugs.


At 4:43 p.m. on Aug. 11, CCSO deputy Justin Wagner was dispatched to a one-car accident on Hwy. 21 south where an SUV had driven off the road and into a ditch. Berryville police officer Kevin Disheroon was called to assist. According to Disheroon's report, Wagner told him he believed the driver, later identified as Keith Neal, 25, was extremely intoxicated and non-compliant. Wagner was unable to get any response but a groan from Neal, who was covered in sweat.

The two officers asked Neal to step out of the car, but he did not comply and when Disheroon tried to pull on his arm, Neal pulled it back. They eventually pulled the struggling Neal out, got him on the ground and handcuffed, patted down and into Disheroon's patrol car and off to the jail.

Disheroon told the Citizen that Neal appeared "out of it" and didn't even seem to know the officers were there or where he was.

While driving Neal to the jail, Disheroon received a call from Wagner telling him he'd found insulin and a needle in Neal's car and that Neal might be having a diabetic reaction. Emergency Medical Services were notified to meet them at the jail and Disheroon told the jail staff on arrival that Neal could be suffering from a diabetic reaction. The jail staff removed Neal's handcuffs and he started to struggle.

"During the struggle, one of the jailers used approximately two contact stuns with a Taser to try to get him to comply, but he continued to struggle," Disheroon's narrative states. Disheroon advised handcuffing Neal again for his own safety until EMS arrived. Neal's blood sugar registered an extremely low 14.

The EMS crew brought Neal's blood sugar level back up, and he was sitting calmly talking with Wagner when Disheroon left the jail. Neal was picked up by his parents.

While the Berryville report was quite detailed, there was virtually no record of the incident at the sheriff's office or jail when the Citizen requested it Friday. The only documentation produced was the dispatch report noting the accident, that Wagner responded, that a tow truck was called and that "the young man was not drunk, he was having a diabetic attack. His parents would be coming to get him from the jail."

Neal told the Citizen he has no memory of the incident and only knows what he was told afterward. He was told he was Tasered "approximately three times.

"I felt like hammered dogsh*t afterward, scratched up and bruised," he said. He was also ticketed for reckless driving and no seatbelt. He said he had just gotten off work when the incident occurred and had not been drinking.

The Police Executive Research Forum's guidelines recommend that every time a Taser is used, officers document the incident in use-of-force reports, noting accidents if and when they occur. Police departments should keep track of these reports and do random audits, regularly analyzing data.

Ragin' Cajun?

Edward Chevallier, an 81-year-old Cajun known locally as Blue John, had been having trouble with a tenant of the trailer park he owns just west of the King's River.

On July 10, CCSO Cpl. Joel Hand and deputy Chris Jones responded to a complaint from the tenant, Dan Rice, that Blue John had threatened him. The officers ordered Blue John to have no contact with his tenant. According to Hand's incident report narrative, Blue John agreed to comply.

Rice complained again on Aug.1 that Blue John was riding his 4-wheeler around his house being "a constant annoyance." Blue John was not present when a deputy arrived.

On Aug. 16, CCSO was called again and Hand and deputy Billy Floyd responded. Rice told the officers Blue John had come to his residence and was yelling at him, using profanity and trying to start a fight.

Blue John told the Citizen his problem with Rice was that he wouldn't mow his grass or clean his yard, and "wouldn't do nothin'." He admitted using profanity but said he was on his road and not on the property he rented to Rice.

When the officers found Blue John he was sitting in his garden, using scissors to cut string to stake tomatoes. From that point, CCSO's narrative and Blue John's story diverge.

Hand's side

According to Hand's report, when asked if he had been at Rice's house, Blue John responded, "It doesn't matter if I was." When Hand advised Blue John that he had been ordered to stay away from Rice, Blue John replied that he had not been served with court papers prohibiting contact. Hand replied that a court order was not necessary.

"Edward [Blue John] got agitated and raised his right arm holding the scissors and acted like he was going to throw the scissors. Edward stated, 'well I guess you better take me to jail.'"

Here's pepper in your eye

Hand told Blue John to put the scissors down and that he was under arrest for harassment and disorderly conduct. He said he told an agitated Blue John twice more to put the scissors down before pulling out his pepper spray and warning he would be sprayed if he didn't comply.

"Even after he was sprayed in the face, Blue John still had his arm raised, scissors in hand. He then threw the scissors into the ground so hard they sank to the handle, but refused to get up [from his chair]. The officers escorted Edward to the ground and placed him in custody," Hand wrote.

Blue John's version

"That's bowlsh*t," said the Cajun of Hand's account. Blue John insists the scissors were on the ground long before the pepper spray appeared. "You don't do nothing after they spray you."

Blue John said he was willing to go with the officers but said he needed to put his dog in its pen first. The officers did not allow him to. He claims he was thrown to the ground and one of the officers held his head down with his foot while he was handcuffed. He has a scraped nose and bruises on his body to back up his claim.

Blue John was charged with harassment, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and refusal to submit to arrest. He was released on his own recognizance when his good friend, former sheriff Chuck Medford, interceded.

Blue John has now made it his mission to work to defeat Grudek in the upcoming election. He has printed and is distributing 1,000 flyers with his mug shots and the caption "This is what they did to Blue John. Please vote for John Bailey."

Questions exist regarding the legality of Blue John's arrest under the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure, which state that non-felony warrantless arrests require "the officer has reasonable cause to believe that such person has committed any violation of law in the officer's presence." No officer was present at the time of Blue John's alleged harassment, trespass and disorderly conduct.

Blue John has retained attorney W.H. Taylor who told the Citizen it sounds like it was an illegal arrest and added, "I understand they Maced an old guy; sounds like kind of a chickensh*t deal to me. You can put that in the paper."

Rice has moved from the trailer park and the Citizen was unable to locate him.

More pepper?

CCSO deputy Chris Jones was on the scene assisting Green Forest Police officer Allen Phillips in the arrest of Francis J. Doyle on July 8. Doyle, well known to local law enforcement based on a long list of arrests, was found asleep in his vehicle after apparently driving off the road. He was found to be intoxicated and Phillips took him into custody, according to Phillips' report.

Handcuffed in Phillips' cruiser, Doyle became aggressive, banging his head on the cruiser's window and attempting to get out when the door was opened. Phillips went around the car to restrain Doyle from the other side, to prevent him from hurting himself. When he opened the door, Phillips was met with the residue of pepper spray; Jones had sprayed Doyle to subdue him.

Abuse or politics?

Was pepper-spraying a man already handcuffed and in custody warranted?

Phillips and his boss, Green Forest Police Chief John Bailey, say no. Bailey said his force is well-acquainted with Doyle and that he was just "mouthing off" in his usual manner.

Phillips, who suffered a minor reaction from the pepper spray, confirmed that he did not believe pepper spray was needed to subdue Doyle.

Sheriff Grudek, in one of two interviews with the Citizen, said the pepper spray was warranted and that Phillips had said he would have used it also. He believes Bailey's statements are politically motivated as Bailey is challenging Grudek in the upcoming sheriff election. He recommended interviewing Phillips rather than Bailey, which the Citizen did.

Bailey said he was not involved in any way in making any of these cases public.

Kill the messenger

When the Citizen called Grudek to ask about the three incidents, he mostly wanted to talk about how upset he was with Citizen editor Mary Pat Boian's "Boys and their Toys" editorial in the Aug. 26 Citizen, which was critical of law enforcement's recent marijuana raids.

On the Blue John incident, Grudek said he was sick of talking about it and referred this reporter to a press release his office had issued.

When the Citizen requested the incident report on the Blue John case, two weeks after the incident, the sheriff's office said it could not be released because the sergeant had not signed off on it. The Citizen obtained an unsigned copy from Blue John.

When the Citizen requested copies of the standard operating procedures for use of Tasers and pepper spray, which a day earlier the sheriff had said existed, this reporter was told to fill out a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request.

When that was submitted, the response was that it needed to be on an official FOIA form, which is non-existent.

Next, the Citizen was told the sheriff had 10 days to fulfill the request, which is in violation of the FOIA law. The sheriff told the Citizen his office would release no further information to the paper without formal FOIA requests.


Shortly after the second interview with the sheriff on Tuesday, in which Grudek repeatedly expressed how disappointed he was with the reporting and the direction he thought this story was going, this reporter received a callback from the sheriff informing him a warrant has been issued for his arrest on an alleged marijuana manufacturing charge stemming from the recent eradication raids.

In earlier conversations on the matter, Grudek had said that small amounts of the herb found were not a big deal.

Better late than never

Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff called back and said he would release incident reports on the three incidents if an FOIA request was filed, which was done.

Incident Reports

* The report on Neal, which sheriff office staff could not locate Friday after several search attempts, follows closely the Berryville PD account, but contains statements from Neal, his parents and his girlfriend documenting that Neal becomes combative and violent when his blood sugar is that low, and expressing their relief that no one was hurt by Neal's actions.

The deputy also wrote that he "smelled the sweet smell of intoxicants" in Neal's car.

* The Blue John narrative was identical to the one supplied by Blue John, although printed in a different font. The sheriff said the report was not released to Blue John and Blue John declined to tell where he got it.

* In the Doyle report, Jones wrote he had warned Doyle he would be sprayed before he did so, that he reported the spraying to his supervisor and to dispatch, and that Doyle's breathing was monitored after the spraying.

There was no indication on the reports as to when they were written, and the request for the standard operating procedures for Tasers and pepper spray remained unfilled.

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