Deputy suspended for wielding rifle after EOTW

JOE LAMB
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
Published Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Faulkner County Detention Center transportation officer hired to provide security at a University of Central Arkansas-sanctioned End of the World after party on the night of April 5 has been suspended without pay for two weeks for improper conduct at the event.

"If there would have been any indication to me that this incident did have any racial overtones," Sheriff Karl Byrd said, "the individual in question would have been fired."

"Two weeks without pay is very substantial for anybody in my department," Byrd added.

Though no official complaints were issued immediately after the party, Capt. John Randall of the Faulkner County Sheriff's Office said, widespread claims among UCA students that officer William Brents carried an AR-15 assault-style rifle to while at the event sparked the investigation.

"We're just recently finding out about this," Randall said. "There was not a report of anything on that particular night and we're basically finding out about it from the public.

"It's not something we teach and it's definitely something we don't tolerate," he added.

Though assigned to the detention center and working off-duty to provide private security, Randall said, Brents is also a certified, academy-trained law enforcement officer "who is a representative of the sheriff's office and still has to abide by FCSO policies when he's in uniform."

Randall said the rifle Brents wielded at the party was the officer's personal weapon, and that he was not certified to use or carry such a rifle.

"I'm not sure exactly what he was doing," he said. "When we questioned him about it he said he was in fear for his safety, but we don't have any information that shows that there was anything going on other than a party; there was not a riot of any kind and there was not a fight of any kind going on when he decided to grab his AR-15.

"He just didn't use his judgment on that one at all."

A separate investigation concerning claims that Brents used a taser to threaten students at a Conway Roller Rink party on April 4 is ongoing, Randall said, and could result in further discipline.

Law enforcement personnel assigned tasers are encouraged to "spark test" the weapons at the beginning of their shifts, which involves partially triggering the device to create a bright electric arc between the electrode projectiles, Randall explained, though the compressed gas charge that fires the projectiles is not triggered.

"Apparently (Brents) was testing it to see if it works," he said, "but did it several times, so I'm still looking into that part as we speak. That taser doesn't need to come out of that holster unless you're going to use it. Once I'm done with investigation on the taser incident I'll report that to the sheriff and he'll make a decision on what's going to happen after that."

Over the course of the investigation, Randall added, it was discovered that the taser Brents allegedly used to threaten students was also a personal weapon, though Brents was certified and trained to use a taser and could have taken a FCSO taser to the event.

"You have to use your discretion," Byrd said. "You're not going to bring a long gun out at a party where there's 2,000 people because the weapon has the potential to injure or kill several with one shot. He didn't make any threats with the rifle, it was just his choice of weaponry and the fact that he wasn't trained for what he had."

No other incidents on these nights are being investigated by FCSO, Randall said.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by e-mail at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1238. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)