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Officer’s penalty is time off job

2011 LR beating ended up on Net by Sean Beherec | November 9, 2012 at 1:24 a.m.

— The Little Rock police lieutenant shown on video beating a man outside a restaurant in the city’s Hillcrest neighborhood will face suspension in the incident, police said Thursday, more than a year after the video was put on the Internet.

Lt. David Hudson, who was served Thursday with the notice of suspension while at work, will begin the suspension Monday, police spokesman Michelle Howard said.

Howard would not say how long the suspension would be and did not release internal investigation files Thursday afternoon requested under the Freedom of Information Act, citing Hudson’s ability to appeal the release of records to the state attorney general.

Howard said Police Chief Stuart Thomas will release a statement Monday regarding the suspension.

The action comes more than a year after Hudson repeatedly punched Chris Erwin, then 40, of Little Rock in the face outside Ferneau at 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd.

Hudson wrote in an officer’s report after the incident that he was working off-duty at the restaurant on the night of Oct. 29, 2011, when an employee told him four people in a private party room would not leave.

Hudson wrote that he repeatedly asked the partyers to leave the restaurant and that they eventually complied.

When Hudson went outside, he found the group standing on the sidewalk, where “Erwin stepped in front of me and demanded to know who was running the party that had wanted them to leave,” according to the report.

Hudson told Erwin “that information was not relevant” and to leave, but Erwin “continued to refuse and I advised him he was under arrest,” the report states.

Hudson grabbed Erwin and pushed him against the wall of the restaurant, according to reports.

Erwin began to struggle and Hudson “realized he was not going to comply” and struck him several times in the “facial area,” the report states.

Hudson then wrestled Erwin to the ground and took him into custody. Another member of the group also was arrested.

Erwin was charged with resisting arrest, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

In his written account of the arrests as part of the internal-affairs investigation, Hudson reported that he used force because Erwin refused to submit.

“During this incident, I did everything I could to avoid a conflict but I was ultimately put into a situation where I had to make an arrest and I used no more force than was necessary to arrest Mr. Erwin. The strikes to the face of Mr. Erwin were necessary to gain control and once I felt I had him under control, I ceased striking Mr. Erwin,” according to the report, obtained through the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

In an internal-affairs interview about three weeks after the arrests, the 34-year veteran was questioned about why he repeatedly struck Erwin and threw him to the ground rather than use pepper spray. Hudson said he could not spray Erwin because he had not been certified to use the weapon, according to a transcript of Hudson’s 22-minute interview with an investigator. He said he could not use a stun gun because he had not been issued one. He said Erwin had not tried to strike him.

On Nov. 7, 2011, Erwin’s attorney, Keith Hall, contesting the charges, released a video of the encounter to try to find witnesses.

In March, Sherwood District Judge Butch Hale dismissed the charges after Hall said prosecutors “dumped” hundreds of pages of records on him shortly before the trial.

Kevin Simpson, a homicide detective and president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he had not heard of Hudson’s suspension and could not comment without receiving more information.

The city’s Civil Service Commission had not received an appeal of the suspension Thursday afternoon, human resources officials said.

Erwin and Travis Blake Mitchell, who was arrested with Erwin, filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit in circuit court on Oct. 26 this year against Hudson, Thomas and the city, claiming excessive force in the arrest.

The lawsuit also claimed false imprisonment, assault and battery, and malicious prosecution, in addition to accusing Thomas and the city of tolerating excessive force.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter said he has not received official notice that Hudson will face suspension but he did say it is the city’s policy “that if the employee is suspended for a violation of city policies then the city will not provide a defense to the individual.”

“If it is correct that he is being suspended, then we can’t say that his actions were the actions of the city and we cannot represent him,” Carpenter said.

Hudson has been named in 28 departmental and citizen complaints since he was hired in March 1978. Four were sustained, resulting in a total of 18 days’ suspension, the last time for a car crash in 1991. He has been exonerated by the department in four accusations of excessive force.

Information for this article was contributed by John Lynch of the

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Arkansas, Pages 9 on 11/09/2012

Print Headline: Officer’s penalty is time off job

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