2018-00798 Arrestee Vernon
Date Posted 5-11-2021
From January to April 2018 the City of Blytheville experienced a series of 10 commercial burglaries / attempted commercial burglaries resulting in vandalism damage to the buildings in an area centered around 5th and Park Street in Blytheville.
On April 5th 2018 at 2:30 am the Blytheville PD K-9 unit and other officers had taken up stationary positions in the 5th and Park Street area in an attempt to apprehend the serial burglar. While in position officers observed a person walking in the area. Shortly after observing the subject officers heard glass break, an alarm sound and saw the subject fleeing on foot away from the area. K-9 Niko, who was trained and certified for Narcotics detection, Tracking and Criminal Apprehension, was deployed to apprehend what officers reasonably believed was a serial burglar that had just committed another burglary.
During the apprehension the suspect was injured by K-9 Niko. Police K-9's are not attack dogs they are trained to apprehend with little or no injury. Prior to this apprehension K-9 Niko had a history of tracks and or apprehensions with no injury.
The suspect was identified as 18 year old Deon Vernon of Blytheville who had injuries he received previously that morning from Breaking glass windows/doors at a business in the 800 block of Dixie street, 500 block of Hutson / N 5th street, and fencing/brush/shrubs while fleeing and hiding from officers within a fence enclosed overgrown lot.
On K-9 Niko's discovery of Vernon hiding in the fence enclosed overgrown lot his handler announced several times that if he didn't come out he would release the dog. K-9 Niko's handler inserted him over the fence to complete the apprehension. At the same time K-9 Niko's was inserted into the fenced area, Vernon began to surrender.
K-9 Niko who, after the initial apprehension called a "Bite", released his hold on Vernon, as trained, at the command of his handler. Vernon reacted to K-9 Niko by striking him and K-9 Niko responded by going back on the "Bite". This time K-9 Niko did not release his hold by command. The fencing and vegetation that Vernon was hiding in made it difficult and slowed Officers ability to get to Vernon who eventually climbed back over the fence and surrendered to officers.
Vernon was taken into custody and provided medical treatment for his injuries. Vernon was convicted of Criminal Mischief (vandalism). In the year following Vernon's arrest and detention, there were no more commercial burglaries in the area of 5th and Park street.
Arrests that result in injury are reviewed by the Blytheville Police Department which deploys Body Worn Video Cameras (BWV) and requires a response to resistance report as a means to document the arrest. Officers actions and conduct are compared to current policy standards and the involved policies may be reviewed for adequacy.
When we conduct a review of an incident we are required to follow standards set forth by US Supreme Court case Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) that states in part "The Fourth Amendment "reasonableness" inquiry is whether the officers' actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation". Those reviews showed there were no substantial policy violations by officers, however policy may be inadequate under the given circumstances.
In 2018, Vernon filed suit in State Court against the City for his injuries. The City, represented by the Arkansas Municipal League requested the case be transferred to Federal Court. in May of 2021 the case went to arbitration with a mediator and was resolved with no admission of liability. The City's insurance covers 90% of the costs.
The information contained within are in the possession of the Blytheville Police Department as the keeper of those records. Other records may be held by State / Federal court or the parties attorney