Independence Co. deputy disciplined following dispute caught on camera

Suspended without pay, ordered to complete additional training

Deputy on paid leave after video surfaces of incident

BETHESDA, Ark. (KAIT) - Independence County Sheriff Shawn Stephens announced Friday a deputy involved in a heated dispute that was caught on camera has been suspended without pay.

The sheriff said the deputy, who he did not identify, must also undergo additional training.

The suspension stems from an incident early Monday morning at a home in Bethesda where a couple was reportedly fighting.

A dispatcher sent the deputy to Kevin and Kandy Dowell’s home to check on them.

“It was just on from there,” Kandy Dowell said. “I mean as soon as that man broke through my threshold, he was aggressive. It was just awful. It was a nightmare.”

Dowell told Region 8 News the distress call turned into an even more chaotic scene so she pulled out her cell phone to record the incident.

She said she and her husband, who has PTSD and depression, were arguing. Often, she said they will call 911 to defuse the fights.

“They come out here and they usually help us grab a bag and we leave,” she said. “That’s usually the end of it, but this time it was not.”

She even said certain deputies know exactly how to handle her husband.

But, she said that’s not what happened Sunday night.

“The man stepped out of his car with an aggressive demeanor,” Dowell said. “He did not listen to me at all when I tried to tell him about my husband’s mental illnesses.”

After her husband agreed to step outside and talk, she said the deputy pulled out his taser.

“That’s when I see that red dot hit my child’s stomach and I lost it. I was like, ‘He is so out of his mind, I think he’s fixin’ to kill my child.' Aiming for my husband, but shoot my child in the process,” she said. “I was scared to death. I was scared for all of our lives.”

Dowell’s video shows her husband run back inside the house, while she can be heard asking the deputy, “What is wrong with you?”

As the deputy attempted to place her into custody, Sheriff Shawn Stephens arrived and deescalated the scene.

Dowell said this has never happened before, and she respects law enforcement.

“We have respect for the right officer of the law that’s going to have respect back for you and your home,” Dowell said.

Now she is calling for a few changes.

She wants to see officers trained properly on how to handle and use their weapons.

She also wants to see them receive more training on how to answer calls involving a person with a mental illness.

“I would like to also see them better trained in how to deal with people with mental disabilities,” Dowell said. “I would also like them to understand that just because a person has a mental disability does not mean they committed a crime and does not mean you have to come to that person with excessive force. They are a person, too.”

Sheriff Stephens said domestic calls are often the most dangerous and it’s standard protocol for two deputies to respond.

Following an internal investigation, Stephens said the deputy had been suspended without pay. The deputy must also complete additional training “directed towards individuals with disabilities and cognitive behavior,” the sheriff said in a Friday news release.

“No findings of a criminal act was found,” the sheriff stated. “However, policy violations supported the disciplinary actions. Disciplinary actions were issued in accordance with the Independence County Employee Handbook.”

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