County deputy suspended after drunken romp: Brinkley officials send him home to face disciplinary action here
A detective with the White County Sheriff's Department's Narcotics Unit has been suspended for 10 days as punishment for an alcohol-fueled disturbance in the east Arkansas town of Brinkley on Sept. 21.
Det. Brett Simpson repeatedly patted down several black men for drugs, grabbed a Brinkley police officer's gun, threatened the men with it, and, after returning the gun, confronted the officer with a raised fist, according to a statement given by Ryan Hollowell, an officer with the Brinkley Police Department.
Hollowell's report says the officer witnessed Simpson drinking.
People at the scene said Simpson then drove through an apartment complex firing a gun out the window of his truck, but police could not verify those accusations.
Throughout the evening, according to the statement, Simpson repeatedly referred to the black men with racial epithets.
Simpson was not arrested, said Brinkley Police Chief Clyde Murphy. The matter was turned over to Baxter Sharp, prosecuting attorney for Monroe County, and Sharp declined to press charges.
Murphy and Sharp both said Simpson was given a break because of he was an officer of the law.
Asked if other citizens would be allowed to leave without arrest after taking an officer's gun, Murphy said, "no." But Simpson had grown up in Brinkley and Hollowell knew him well, said Murphy, and the officer extended a sort of professional courtesy towards Simpson.
"It's like nurses and doctors getting their pills for free," said Murphy.
The chief went on to explain that his officers often take drunk people home without arresting them, and Simpson was accompanied by someone who was not drunk.
"I leave it up to the officers to make that call."
Hollowell's statement, however, clearly reports that the officer knew that both Simpson and his companion had been drinking. Hollowell was also told Simpson was "extremely intoxicated," but allowed him to drive away anyway.
Asked if a reporter could get away without arrest after taking an officer's gun, Sharp, the prosecuting attorney, said "you're not a law enforcement officer."
Further, as there was no blood-alcohol test taken, and no proof about shots being fired, Sharp decided not to prosecute Simpson.
"I left any discipline up to his superior," said Sharp.
White County Sheriff Pat Garrett was given a copy of Hollowell's statement. Reached Tuesday, Garrett said he took Simpson's car, gun and badge and consulted with several people, including Murphy, about how to discipline Simpson.
He then gave Simpson the suspension and six-months probation.
"Ten days without pay is a big deal in White County," said Garrett.
Murphy said Tuesday that Garrett never consulted with him, and he wouldn't comment on Garrett's action.
Simpson, a former Beebe police officer, was hired as a detective in the sheriff's narcotics unit on Feb. 10, 2003, said Capt. Wayne Black. Saying he didn't want to reveal when the force was missing officers, Black declined to reveal the exact dates of Simpson's suspension.
The events in Brinkley took place at just after midnight on the morning of Sept. 21, when Simpson called Hollowell on his cell phone and asked him to meet him in the Chicago Street apartment complex. When he arrived, Hollowell found Simpson and his brother-in-law, Dean Dorman, talking to two black men standing near Simpson's truck.
"[Simpson] was in the driver's seat and [Dorman] was in the passenger's seat," wrote Hollowell in his statement. "Both subjects were drinking Bud Light in 12 oz. cans."
Simpson, wrote Hollowell, was yelling obscenities at the men, but the men "realized that [Simpson] was very intoxicated and were laughing at him."
Two other men then drove up, and Hollowell went to talk to them, according to the statement. After about 15 minutes, Simpson got out of his truck, walked over to the men and asked the driver for his name, and the man told him.
"[Simpson] then reached and grabbed my firearm and took [it] out of my holster and started waving it toward [the man] and his passenger," wrote Hollowell. "At this time I told [Simpson] to give me my weapon and he complied."
As events proceeded, Hollowell noticed that Dorman had a pistol in the waistline of his pants. Simpson wanted the two men to be removed from their car, but Hollowell leaned against the car door to prevent him from reaching them, telling Simpson that he was "way out of line."
"[Simpson] then became very agitated and turned and gave me a combative look and doubled up his fist as if he were going to hit me," wrote Hollowell.
The officer told Simpson "he had no business doing what he was doing and the thing for him to do was leave," and Simpson left.
Hollowell went on to speak with several men in the area. They told him that Simpson and Dorman had been harassing them, calling them ugly names, and patting them down, "saying that he knew that they had some dope."
After talking to the men, Hollowell drove out of the apartment complex and onto Chicago Street, only to be met by Simpson, who drove up beside him.
Simpson, wrote Hollowell, "asked if I was going to take him to jail or go back down Chicago and help him arrest some n[--]. I again told him that he was out of line and for him to take [himself] home. He said OK and drove off down Chicago."
Joined by another officer, Hollowell later returned to the apartment complex and interviewed three men who said that after Hollowell had left the scene, Simpson "drove back down Chicago Street firing a gun out the window of his truck."
Murphy said Tuesday that officers have subsequently searched for evidence of Simpson firing his gun, but have found none.
"That would be terroristic threatening," he said. "But that might have just been people talking."
None of the witnesses was willing to testify about the gun-firing, he said.
Simpson did not return a call for comment.