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Fire captain charged in attack on Asian man quits job

by Tracy Neal | March 27, 2021 at 3:52 a.m.
Benjamin Snodgrass

BENTONVILLE -- A Fire Department captain has resigned from his job, effective immediately, according to a spokeswoman for the city.

Benjamin Snodgrass "expressed regret and an apology for any embarrassment to his family, fellow firefighters, friends and the city of Bentonville," according to Debbie Griffin, the city spokeswoman, in a news release Friday.

Snodgrass was placed on leave after his arrest on charges of hitting an Asian man whom he described as not being American, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Snodgrass, 44, was charged with misdemeanor battery and public intoxication in the March 13 incident outside Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort.

He pleaded innocent to the charges.

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

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' 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 Recently, reports of violence against Asian Americans has drawn national attention, particularly since the March 16 shootings at three spas in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, including six Asian women.

On Friday evening, several people organized an event to recognize the day as a national Day of Action and Healing to Stop Asian Hate. The event was held at the Momentary, a contemporary art space for visual and performing arts, culinary experiences, festivals and artists-in-residence.

Bentonville City Council member Gayatri Agnew said she was shocked to learn that one of the city's firefighters was arrested in attack on an Asian man in Hot Springs.

Agnew, one of the organizers and speakers at Friday's event, said the incident hit closer to home because she, too, is Asian.

"I'm Asian," she told several dozen people at the vigil. "My father was Asian. That gentleman in Hot Springs could have been my brother. He could have been my son."

She said the incident involving the firefighter and the man was not just an assault, but an assault because of the man's race and nationality. She described the incident as a hate crime.

"When you feel and see it could be one of your family members then it is more personal," she said.

Julie Thibodaux of Fayetteville was at the event with her family. "It's important for our family to support Asian Americans," she said. "We want to support to our friends that we are in solidarity with them not only in words, but in person."

Thibodaux believes that Snodgrass' resignation from the department was the appropriate step considering the events that have happened in the country.

Graham Cobb of Bentonville said the violence against Asians in the country needs to be acknowledged. Cobb said being silent about the violence is not helpful.

"If we don't acknowledge the violence, and ignore it then we are complicit with the violence," he said.

Cobb said he trusted that city leaders held employees to a high standard, and that Snodgrass is no longer with the department.

Monica Kumar, another organizer of Friday's event, urged people to stand together to end the hate and violence.

Kumar tearfully read the names of the six women who were killed in the Atlanta area shootings.

The crowd also read "I Too," a poem by Langston Hughes about racism and which concludes with the words, "I, too, am America."

Ashlie Ivey then led the crowd in singing "This Land is Your Land," a song written by Woody Guthrie. Each verse of the song ends with, "This land was made for you and me."

Agnew urged people to speak up against hatred and violence. "Silence is inaction," she said.

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