Charges were brought against Faulkner County Road Police Officer Michael J. Bell about two weeks ago, and then dropped by the 20-year-old female who alleged Bell held a gun to her throat and hit her.
According to a closed case file obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act from the 20th Judicial District prosecuting attorney’s office, formal charges of third degree domestic battery and second degree assault against Bell were signed by a judge.
But the charges were not filed and a warrant for Bell’s arrest never issued, according to Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland, because the woman who brought the allegations cast doubt on her original statement.
“We submitted the domestic battery and assault in the second degree for the court’s signature but we received word that the victim had come to Vilonia Police Department and cast doubt on the legitimacy of some of her statement,” Hiland said. “We then interviewed the victim and she insisted that she didn’t want to move forward and indicated she didn’t know if what she told the officers initially was accurate.”
The allegations stem from an event that allegedly occurred on Aug. 31 at Bell’s residence in Vilonia.
Vilonia Police Chief Brad McNew said the woman did not say she lied during a police interview, but “she said she didn’t remember.”
“She read her original statement and didn’t know what was true,” McNew said.
Hiland said the case would not move forward without a credible witness statement.
“Obviously there was significant injury to the victim, and I’m confident she didn’t injure herself, but we can’t move forward without a witness or cooperating victim to provide evidence to support prosecution,” Hiland said.
According to the case file, Kelsie Walker, 20, of El Paso, told Vilonia police Bell hit her in the mouth and ear and pointed a gun at her during an altercation at Bell’s residence.
Walker alleged she and Bell began arguing when she went to his residence and found him in bed with a man and woman.
Voluntary statements were obtained by Vilonia police from five other individuals, including three who said they heard the alleged incident from another room in the house.
A witness told police he heard Walker and Bell “wrestling over a gun,” and “heard her hit Bell and then Bell hit her to get the gun from her.”
According to Walker’s statement, she left after the alleged altercation and was picked up by a friend.
According to the case report, Walker’s friend called 9-1-1 when she saw Walker’s injuries.
In a Vilonia Police Department incident report, an officer described Walker as having a large cut on her lip and swelling on her face.
A photo taken the night of the alleged incident shows Walker with a laceration on and above her mouth and blood on her chin and cheek.
According to the report, Walker received medical attention at Conway Regional Emergency Room.
Walker told police she initiated a fight with Bell by first slapping him. In her statement she said Bell pushed her away “and I came back at him.”
Walker said she slapped Bell three times before he slapped her in the ear and she fell to the ground.
Walker said she and Bell argued and Bell punched her in the mouth with his fist.
In a statement obtained from Jeff Johnston, Faulkner County administrator, Johnston stated Bell told him he pushed Walker away with the palm of his hand.
Johnston said Bell had visible swelling and redness on his left eye.
A statement was not obtained by Vilonia police from Bell because police were unable to make contact with him according to the VPD incident report.
An officer stated three officers from Vilonia and two sheriff’s deputies went to Bell’s residence, but “there was no answer when I knocked on the door continuously.”
According to a statement from a female witness, she and others inside the house were told by Bell to not answer the door when police attempted to make contact.
The VPD report filed at 5:32 a.m. on Aug. 31 contains an additional offense, contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Hiland said the charge was not included in the warrant papers because Walker would not tell investigators where she obtained alcohol.
In the incident report filed by VPD, an officer wrote Walker told him she drank alcohol at Bell’s residence.
Bell was placed on administrative leave without pay by Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin until the outcome of the investigation.
Scroggin said Wednesday that Bell was back under regular employment because the investigation was closed and Bell was cleared.
“It is my understanding the young lady admitted wrong-doing. She invaded his home, it is my understanding. I’ll stress again that he was cleared of this,” Scroggin said.
Bell is the sole member of the Faulkner County Road Police Department, which has been under investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The investigation centers on the purchase of five guns in 2008, including four AR-15 rifles and ammunition.
In an earlier interview with the Log Cabin Democrat, Scroggin said the guns were purchased for the department in response to Bell’s being wounded in the line of duty in 2005.
Bell has worked as a police officer in other departments in Faulkner County, including the Vilonia Police Department in 2010.
The Faulkner County Road Police Department was formed, according to County Attorney Allen Dodson, to regulate or ticket trucks associated with the natural gas industry, particularly in the north part of the county.
“I think it was envisioned that the department would grow, but as time went on I think that need has subsided,” Dodson said.
Bell issues citations for weight limit violations and can conduct other kinds of traffic stops, according to Dodson.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)