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Bentonville firefighter charged in fight with Asian American resigns

by Tracy Neal | March 26, 2021 at 1:54 p.m.
Benjamin Snodgrass

UPDATE:

Ben Snodgrass has resigned from his job as a Bentonville Fire Department captain, effective immediately, according to Debbie Griffin, a city spokeswoman, in a news release Friday. Snodgrass "expressed regret and an apology for any embarrassment to his family, fellow firefighters, friends and the city of Bentonville," according to Griffin.

EARLIER:

BENTONVILLE -- A firefighter has been placed on leave after being arrested on charges of hitting an Asian man whom he described as not being American, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Benjamin Snodgrass, 44, of Bentonville was charged with misdemeanor battery and public intoxication in the March 13 incident outside the Oaklawn casino in Hot Springs.

He pleaded innocent to the charges.

Snodgrass has worked for the Bentonville Fire Department for 14 years. He was promoted to captain in 2019.

"The city has learned of an arrest of a city employee in Hot Springs," Mayor Stephanie Orman said in a statement Thursday. "Due to the nature of the alleged offense, the employee has been placed on leave pending investigation of the matter."

A Hot Springs police officer went to the casino at 9:31 p.m. March 13 in response to a call concerning a battery, according to the affidavit. The officer encountered a man with a red mark below his left eye and a scratch on his right knee, according to the affidavit. The man's shirt was ripped.

The man said Snodgrass approached him outside the casino, asked if he knew he was in America and started pushing him. The man said he hit Snodgrass with a fist in self-defense because he was struck several times in the face, according to the affidavit.

Snodgrass was sitting nearby talking with security personnel. The officer described him as having bloodshot and watery eyes and a strong odor of intoxicants, according to the affidavit.

Snodgrass told the officer he didn't know what happened. The officer continued to question Snodgrass, and he responded, "I don't know, guys. I am hammered," according to the affidavit.

The officer asked what happened between him and the other man, and Snodgrass said he confronted the man for not being American but said nothing happened between the two, according to the affidavit.

Snodgrass' knuckles were red, and he had blood on his left earlobe and lips, according to the affidavit.

He gave the officer a Bentonville employee identification card and a debit card when asked for identification, according to the affidavit.

Snodgrass was arrested and taken to the Garland County jail, where he refused to take a breath test, officials said. He was later released on $1,500 bond and ordered not to have any contact with the other man.

Snodgrass' trial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. May 6 in Garland County District Court.

News of the incident comes at a time of increasing national attention to reports of violence against Asian Americans, particularly since the March 16 shootings at three spas in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, including six Asian women.

"The City of Bentonville does not condone or tolerate any form of discrimination or violence," Orman said.

The mayor noted that the city recently formed a task force to guide the city's diversity and inclusion efforts.

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