More details emerge in incident between community activist and LRPD | Arkansas Blog

More details emerge in incident between community activist and LRPD


Little Rock Police Department's interaction Oct. 2 with community activist Benny Johnson — in which officers mistook his cellphone for a gun, searched his apartment and pointed multiple guns at him — is more dramatic than described in the initial police report, judging by videos created by blogger Russ Racop recounting the incident.

Racop received these videos from police cameras after a Freedom of Information Act request to the Little Rock Police Department. He's edited them to include a narrative as events unfolded.

Here are both videos:

According to the report, Little Rock police officers thought they had seen Johnson with a gun to his head in the window of his apartment and entered to prevent suicide. In reality, Johnson had a phone to his ear. The police were at Johnson's home, the Pine Gardens apartments on Baseline Road, because of a 911 call Johnson had made about hearing shots fired.

The police report smooths over a tense interaction in bureaucratic language and doesn't provide all the details of the event. Among the differences:

- Officers did not realize that Johnson was the one who called 911 saying that shots were fired, even though they could have with proper communication.

- They pointed guns at Johnson and flashed lights on him for standing near a window, watching as police swarmed his complex.

- Officers said Johnson's lack of alarm was the problem. When officers saw Johnson with a cellphone to his head, mistaking it for a gun, as he looked out of his apartment they thought it had to be a gun because (emphasis supplied) "we've got flashlights and a bunch of weapons pointed at him and he's just chilling." (see around 10:30-minute mark in part two video).

This logic is faulty for anybody, Johnson said — that a suspect must have a gun just because they don't appear to fear police guns. But, it is especially poor in this case because Johnson was the one who called 911. He said he was not fearful of the police because he expected them to be there to protect him. An officer is heard saying "he didn't seem too fazed that we have three long guns and a pistol on him."

- The officers are heard to say that a mistake could've been costly to their actual mission because they heard gunshots as they entered. "Somebody still is out here with a gun and we're all standing on top of each other like dumbasses," one officer said.

- Officers also point out they were in a difficult spot — after seeing someone with a gun to their head they had to enter — telling each other they'd "rather be wrong than someone be dead."

- An officer asked: "Why do I feel this is a setup?" after Johnson complained about the poor treatment.

Johnson, during a press conference last week to discuss the incident, said these things happen often and reflect poor community policing and rudeness by the police. He blamed the shortcomings on the leadership of Chief Kenton Buckner.

"It's time for both of them to go," he said of Buckner and City Manager Bruce Moore.

Johnson said police mishandling of calls happens to others, but goes unnoticed when it doesn't involve someone well-known, such as himself.

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