News Article Details

Fort Smith police, Bost employees explored other options prior to autistic man's arrest

Times Record - 9/21/2018

Sept. 21--Fort Smith police and Bost employees sought options other than arrest prior to transporting John David Davenport to the Sebastian County Adult Detention Center, officials said.

Davenport, an autistic 25-year-old of Fort Smith, was arrested Sept. 10 after spitting in Fort Smith police officer Diana Abrajan's face and on Saturday was pronounced dead at Sparks Regional Medical Center after a jail deputy three days earlier found him unresponsive in his cell. Bost employees and police prior to Davenport's arrest sought alternatives, including care under Adult Protective Services and the Crisis Stabilization Unit, according to police, CSU officials and video surveillance of the incident.

Police Lt. Wes Milam said Davenport's combative demeanor, lack of a doctor's signature for alternative care and a felony warrant led to his arrest.

"The short answer is, there was no other alternative," Milam said.

Bost employees prior to Davenport's arrest told Abrajan he would randomly become upset and spit in their faces, according to the incident report. After Abrajan was spat on and made the arrest, she confirmed Davenport's felony failure to appear warrant while transporting him to the Detention Center, according to a Police Department news release.

In explaining the arrest, Milam cited the fact that spitting on a law enforcement officer is aggravated assault under Arkansas statute 5-13-211. He also pointed out that CSU, which opened in March to divert the mentally ill from jail to treatment, would not have admitted Davenport. CSU officials from March to May 2018 declined to recommend 68 people for an in-person nursing assessment for CSU admission based on exclusionary factors, including eight for behavioral instability, according to records.

"Anyone we get a report on who is combative and violent, we are not able to take," CSU Program Director Joey Potts said, alleging Davenport was actively violent and pointing out that CSU personnel cannot restrain people chemically or physically. Milam said Fort Smith police take people to CSU regularly, but that they must be nonviolent and meet other criteria as well.

Milam also said Abrajan was legally obligated to transport Davenport to jail after she discovered his felony failure to appear warrant. He said she would have had to do the same thing if she discovered his warrant while taking him to CSU.

"The judge signed an arrest warrant, and we had to serve it. We don't get to pick and choose," Milam said. "That's a lawful court order for us to serve."

The patrol unit footage of Davenport's arrest shows Abrajan walking him to a patrol unit and gently placing him in the back seat. She then loads a supply of his medicine into the back of the unit.

Bost employees in a different segment of the video are heard telling officers they were trying to get a doctor's signature to put Davenport in another form of care.

"They tried to find a place and couldn't do it, so they called Adult Protective Services," Milam said. "Adult Protective Services had to call their supervisors in Little Rock, and they couldn't place him."

Police arrested Davenport after exploring these options and speaking with the county prosecutor about the situation, Milam said. Davenport appeared to have hit his head before the jail deputy found him unresponsive at 6:50 a.m.Sept. 12 during a cell check, according to a Sebastian County Sheriff's Office news release. He was taken to Sparks, was believed to be brain dead on Sept. 13 and was pronounced dead on Saturday, according to Sebastian County Coroner Kenny Hobbs.

"What happened to him was unfortunate, but the officers on the scene did everything they could to find the alternatives other than what had to happen," Milam said. "This is the way it happened, and we hate what happened after we got him to the jail."

The Times Record has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for all video examined by the Sheriff's Office in the investigation of Davenport's death. Sheriff's Capt. Philip Pevehouse on Tuesday said he could not provide surveillance footage for the request, as the incident is still under investigation.

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(c)2018 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)

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