A fire captain with the Bentonville Fire Department has been arrested and is facing several charges for attacking an Asian man outside an Arkansas casino.
Bentonville Fire Department Capt. Benjamin Snodgrass, 44, allegedly approached the victim, Liem Nguyen, outside the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs on the night of March 13, according to KARK.
Snodgrass asked Nguyen if he knew he was in America and started pushing him. Nguyen punched the man in self-defense and he punched the victim back, KATV reported.
“He comes walking back at me, telling me he’s going to kill me and my kind of people and put a hold on me and that’s when I defend myself,” Nguyen said.
After the fight, Nguyen called the Hot Springs Police Department to report the incident. Upon arriving at the scene, officers saw a red mark under Nguyen’s eye, his shirt torn and he had a scratch on his right knee.
Authorities also attempted to speak to Snodgrass, but he was not speaking in clear sentences. He was also heard saying, “I don’t know guys, I’m hammered.” Although he admitted he confronted Nguyen about not being American, Snodgrass said nothing else happened.
Officers responding to the scene noted Snodgrass had blood on his left ear, lips and redness on both of his knuckles.
Snodgrass was arrested and booked in the Garland County jail. He was charged with misdemeanor, third-degree battery and public intoxication but was released the following day after posting a $1,500 bail and pleaded not guilty.
“I never thought it would happen to me personally because I speak English perfectly and I spoke English to him perfectly,” Nguyen said. “It’s 2021. It doesn’t matter– people are people, that’s it there’s no difference.”
He is scared to go out following the incident, he told KARK. Nguyen filed for a no-contact order on March 19 that was approved by a Garland County Judge.
Snodgrass, who has been with the Bentonville Fire Department for over 12 years, was recently put on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, a spokesperson said. He is due to appear at the Garland County courtroom in Hot Springs on May 6.
The attack “occurred solely because of his nationality and a climate of hate by some in this country right now toward Asian-Americans,” Julie Roper, Nguyen’s attorney, said. Roper also accused Snodgrass of threatening to kill Nguyen.
The prosecution has yet to decide if they will pursue federal hate crime charges for the case and discuss the matter with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to Garland County Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Lawrence.
However, a spokesperson for the U.S Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case with an ongoing investigation.
Bentonville Mayor Stephanie Orman condemned the incident and said the city “does not condone or tolerate any form of discrimination or violence,” 4029TV reported.
“In fact, we have worked hard with the formation of a DEI task force both, in the community and internally as a staff, to make sure that everyone has a voice, they are heard, and feel welcome and protected in our community,” Orman continued in the statement. “We will continue our work to make Bentonville an inclusive, safe, and welcoming environment for all.”
Feature Image via Garland County jail (left), KATV (right)