FORT SMITH -- Six officers up the chain of command within the Fort Smith Police Department approved, after the fact, the force an officer used when a man handcuffed behind his back suffered injuries from a face-first fall on a concrete floor at the county jail.
Former Police Chief Kevin Lindsey testified in the U.S. District Court civil trial against the city and then-patrol officer Justin Deleon that Deleon used appropriate force. He also said 44-year-old Clarence Leonard Scott fell after charging at Deleon in the sally port of the county jail and fell on his face while Deleon tried to keep him from falling.
Videos from the sally port and from inside Deleon's patrol car showed Scott getting out of the car and stepping close to Deleon, who was holding the back door open. Deleon put his hand on Scott's front and Scott turned and fell against the trunk of the car, then slid off the back. As he did, Deleon grabbed him, Scott spun around and fell to the floor.
Scott testified Monday in the excessive-force trial that Deleon tripped him and then slammed him face first onto the concrete floor of the sally port. Deleon had arrested him outside a downtown bar April 18, 2014, after responding to a report of disorderly conduct.
Scott, who said he didn't deserve to be arrested, testified that he suffered broken teeth in the fall and a possible jaw injury. The injuries could cost up to $20,000 to surgically repair, according to a dentist who testified Monday. Scott testified that he doesn't have medical insurance and can't afford treatment.
Deleon's supervisor that night, Dewey Young, then a sergeant but now a lieutenant, testified that it appeared from the videos that Deleon did not trip Scott.
Lindsey and Young testified about the use-of-force report that Deleon submitted and that they and others in the chain of command signed off on.
The report said the circumstances that led to the use of force were Scott's aggressive posturing when he emerged from the patrol car, that he charged at Deleon by stepping in close to him, that he head-butted Deleon and that Scott pulled away from Deleon, causing Scott to fall.
Lindsey said he did not see Scott head-butt Deleon in the video but said he believed Deleon thought he was head-butted.
Young said that when he arrived at the jail minutes after Scott was injured, he noticed that Deleon's nose was red and that was why Deleon believed he was head-butted.
The alleged head-butt led to a second-degree battery charge being filed against Scott that was later dismissed. Scott ended up pleading no contest in May 2015 to disorderly conduct.
Deleon began his testimony Tuesday afternoon, saying that he initially arrested Scott outside Rooster's bar at Eighth Street and Garrison Avenue on a charge of obstructing government operation for failing to produce identification when Deleon asked for it.
As soon as he handcuffed Scott, Deleon said, Scott began to yell and scream, causing a scene that brought patrons of the bar out onto the sidewalk between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. Deleon said he changed the arresting charge to disorderly conduct.
About a second after Scott was handcuffed, he accused Deleon of arresting him because he was black, Deleon said. On the way to the jail, an in-car video unit recorded Scott continuing to scream and yell and, at one point, calling Deleon, who is white, a prejudiced pig.
After handcuffing Scott downtown, Deleon said, he called Young because department policy requires that a report has to be made when someone accuses an officer of racism.
Young testified that he arrived downtown and attempted to take a report about the accusation from Scott until Scott asked Young if he was a racist police officer. At that point,Young said, he had to stop because a report had to be made on the statement Scott made to him.
Young said he informed Scott that he could make a complaint against him to the department's office of professional conduct when he was released from jail.
Deleon had not completed his testimony when Western Arkansas Chief U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III sent the jury of six men and two women home for the night.
Deleon's testimony resumes at 9 a.m. today.
State Desk on 01/24/2018
Print Headline: Found use of force justified, 2 of officer's higher-ups testify