Sheriff, officer face line-of-duty use of force charges
Use of force allegations against a sheriff and a police officer in western Arkansas echo calls for police accountability throughout the United States.
Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Boen and former Paris police officer Christopher Brownlow have been formally accused by prosecutors of use of force against detainees. Boen, who was federally indicted in December on deprivation of rights charges in the Western District of Arkansas, allegedly assaulted detainees who were not resisting on three separate occasions over the course of 17 months. Brownlow, who in February had a second-degree battery warrant issued against him, is accused of kneeing a detainee in the face in September.
Boen pleaded not guilty to his charges and awaits an October trial for his alleged actions. Brownlow has not yet pleaded either way to the charges filed in his alleged incident, according to court records.
Boen, who is serving his eighth year as Franklin County sheriff in name only due to the indictment, allegedly assaulted detainees in a wide range of circumstances prior to his December indictment.
The indictment alleges Boen on Sept. 14, 2017, punched a detainee multiple times in the head and body while he or she was cuffed and shackled. Boen on Nov. 21, 2018, allegedly pushed a detainee onto the floor and grabbed his beard during an interview. And two weeks later, he allegedly hit a detainee multiple times while he or she was shackled to a bench in the county jail.
Boen if convicted would face up to 30 years in federal prison, up to three years of supervised release and up to a $250,000 fine, according to Magistrate Judge Mark E. Ford. He is prohibited from all sheriff’s duties except for signing checks and cannot possess a firearm, hold a medical marijuana card or leave the Western District, Ford said.
The continuation of Boen’s trial follows a previous continuation of the trial to June. Boen’s attorney Russell Wood in the motion for continuance stated Boen needed additional time to review and address legal issues in the 5,000 pages of discovery and that witnesses needed to be tracked down.
The motion for continuance to October is under seal in federal court. Western District Public Information Officer Charlie Robbins was unable to give a reason for the continuance on Wednesday.
Brownlow allegedly fractured a detainee’s eye socket and jaw in September when he assaulted him in the Logan County Detention Center.
Brownlow on Sept. 14 allegedly kneed the detainee while he was lying down in his cell after the detainee was arguing with him. He did so after coming into the detainee’s cell uninvited while detention deputies tried to interview him, according to the probable cause affidavit.
A detention deputy at the jail told Arkansas State Police Cpl. Corey Mendenhall he received a call from another deputy that a detainee was kicking the door of his cell and yelling. The detainee quickly calmed down when he was lying on his cot but acted like he was ignoring the deputies when they tried to interview him for the incident report.
Brownlow allegedly entered the cell when the deputy swung the door open and told the detainee he needed to stand up to be cuffed and put in a chair, the deputy told State Police. The detainee in another interview with State Police said Brownlow and another officer told him to “cuff up.” He asked them why he had to do this.
Brownlow then drove his knee “in a diving motion” into the detainee’s face, the deputy said. The detainee said Brownlow also elbowed him, the affidavit states.
Medical personnel told the detainee he had seven orbital fractures and a jaw fracture from the impact.
Paris Police Chief John O’Brien reached out to State Police to conduct the investigation. The detainee who was allegedly assaulted also filed a lawsuit against Brownlow but not against the Paris Police Department or the city of Paris, the Paris Express reported.
Neither a plea nor a court date were listed in Brownlow’s court file on Saturday.
Second-degree battery is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison in Arkansas.