ASH FLAT, Ark. – On November 12, 2016, Randell Lee Veazie was ruthlessly beaten without provocation by several Sharp County law enforcement officers.
As 2019 arrives, one of the officers has been arrested and charged with felony battery while two others are suspended with the Ash Flat Police Chief fighting to get them reinstated to active duty.
And the victim? Permanently disabled.
The Video Doesn’t Lie
It began that night when Cherokee Village Police Officer Joshua Trivitt and several other officers responded to the home of Randell Lee Veazie. Veazie was intoxicated and was placed in handcuffs after his wife called officers, saying her husband was “acting up.” However, after being cuffed, Veazie was body-slammed by Trivitt. Later, Trivitt apparently claimed Veazie had “spit” on him, although it seems this is his interpretation of a drunken man’s spittle flying out of his mouth, video, reports, and eyewitness testimony indicates.
In the video obtained and released by NEA Report, Trivitt admits to slamming Veazie.
Unfortunately, no video has been released of Trivitt’s brutal acts. As is too often the case with police misconduct, the body camera footage from that evening coincidentally vanished – except for a short segment leaked to NEA Report. The video was also leaked to several Sharp County media outlets who have close ties to police and refused to release it to the public.
The camera above is the bodycam worn by Cherokee Village Police Officer Josh Trivitt – the one who brags about slamming Veazie. Unfortunately for Veazie, Trivitt was not the only officer to injure him that evening.
After the arrest and the slam, Ash Flat Police Officer Colton Wilson would be the officer that transported Veazie. He wrote in his report that Veazie was allegedly kicking the doors and windows of his patrol car, so Wilson stopped in the parking lot of the Alps. Wilson yanked the handcuffed man, feet first, out of the car. His head bounced off the ground. No other mention of any use of force in the parking lot is made in the report by Wilson, although he reports his act that injured Veazie below the chin. What was not reported by Wilson was the most obvious concern in the leaked police footage.
In the video, beginning after Wilson had bounced Veazie’s skull off the ground, Ash Flat Police Officer Thomas Rigsby tells Veazie, “Listen. Shut the fuck up.” as he bends over to Veazie and several loud clicks are heard. These sounds are Rigsby’s steel flashlight making contact with bones in the head of Veazie.
With Veazie groaning, Trivitt laughs about him bleeding.
“Fuck, he’s bleeding bad,” chuckles Trivitt.
The officers get him into a patrol car as Trivitt, out of breath, mutters to himself the boast that he slammed Veazie. The video cuts off not far after Trivitt’s damning quote.
“Slammed his fucking ass.” – Cherokee Village Police Officer Josh Trivitt
Different Version of Events by Police
There are two versions of events that evening: the police officers’ versions, none of which mention any unethical use of police force, and Veazie’s claims through his attorneys, James W. Harris and Zachary W. Morrison of Blytheville.
Veazie’s claims are not contracted by evidence.
The same can not be said for the officers, who seemed to engage in group falsification of reports with deliberate omissions of their misconduct and dishonest claims about the injured man to justify their brute approach to law enforcement.
“They told me that he [Veazie] spit on Officer Trivitt on the porch and at the car and Officer Trivitt had to take him to the ground because he was fighting and resisting. I saw he was bleeding a little from his mouth not bad,” Ash Flat Police Officer Tom Rigsby wrote.
“When I came up to the old Alps I saw Officer Wilson trying to handcuff Mr. Veazie feet [sic] so he could not kick anymore,” Rigsby continues. “I help [sic] put Mr. Veazie back in the patrol car and we took him to the ER. All this time he was calling us everything in the book, spitting, telling us we were pussies.”
At no point did Veazie call the officers “pussies” in the above video. There’s no evidence he ever spit on any officer.
“He pulled his legs up to where his knees touched his chest like he was going to kick me as hard as he could,” Ash Flat Officer Colton Wilson reported. “As Mr. Veazie kicked at me, I was able to get a hold of his leg and I pulled him out of the car. As Mr. Veazie was coming out of the seat he started rolling over onto his side and then onto his belly. As he came clear of the seat, he fell onto the parking lot striking his chin. Veazie’s chin began to bleed quite a bit due to the laceration on his chin.”
In this section, Wilson admits to pulling a man out of a police car by his feet so hard, his chin bounced off the ground. Remember: Veazie was still handcuffed with his hands behind his back. He couldn’t shield his face from the blow. This was a brutal disregard for his safety.
Wilson’s report never makes mention of the flash light. Neither do any of the other officers.
Instead, they charged their victim with criminal charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of a controlled substance (pot). Wilson later tried to charge him with battery but the prosecutor didn’t take it.
Veazie left that evening permanently disabled. He twitches and shakes from the brain damage caused by blunt force trauma to his skull. His injuries were extensive.
- Broken jaw, requiring surgery, plates and screws to repair; jaw wired shut for a month
- TMJ/all bones on right side of his face (side Rigsby used his flash light on) shattered; can never be repaired
- Large laceration on his chin, as seen above
- An allergic reaction to the titanium caused an infection, requiring surgery to clean out
- Nose fractured
- Right ear injured
- Teeth busted
- Brain damage (still receiving speech therapy, diagnosed with PTSD, bad memory problems, fainting spells
- More issues, some of which continue to surface
Anyone in denial about how unlawful law enforcement was that evening need only see that Third Judicial District Prosecutor Henry Boyce requested a special prosecutor, Jack McQuary, to investigate the case. Boyce, who once defended the infamous video depicting police abuse of a railroad worker, acknowledged the police misconduct had occurred and needed to be investigated.
“…there was certainly some misconduct.” Boyce said as he moved to dismiss all charges against Veazie. Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Bill Bowden reporting
For admitting to body-slamming a handcuffed man on camera, laughing about him bleeding, and helping permanently disable him, Trivitt is being charged with felony second-degree battery. U.S. District Court Judge Bill Wilson will oversee a jury trial on June 18, 2019 in Little Rock. (Side note: Trivitt’s wife, Mandy (Truitt) Trivitt, pleaded guilty on November 1 to embezzling $153,000 from a local pest control business over 13 years. For her crime, she received 10 years probation and restitution with $2,000 paid down and property value equaling $15,500. Her father is Highland Mayor Russell Truitt.)
For admitting to pulling a handcuffed man out of the back of his patrol car, feet first, bouncing his jaw off of the ground, and then subsequently participating in other unlawful events by authorities that evening, Colton Wilson was never even charged with a crime. He was suspended from the police force – yet in December’s Ash Flat City Council Meeting, Police Chief Anthony Wiles petitioned the council to reinstate Wilson. The council all voted no (except for Councilman Sean Himschoot).
In the same vote, Ash Flat council members rejected the reinstatement of Thomas Rigsby. He, too, has faced no charges from his acts that evening and will apparently never unless McQuary faces enough public/political pressure to make a decision. Rigsby escaped that evening with a mere suspension – and one that won’t last long, if Chief Wiles gets his way.
At the December city council meeting in Ash Flat, Wiles asked the council to reinstate Rigsby and Wilson, a report by the Spring River Chronicle said. Wiles claimed McQuary had no intention of filing charges against Rigsby or Wilson. Despite their behavior that evening, Wiles defended them and sought to put them back on duty. All council members except for Sean Himschoot disagreed, with Danny Traw saying his phone was blown up by constituents demanding that the two questionably ethical men not be reinstated to the police force.
NEA Report reached out to the Veazie’s for comment. Learning of this shocked the wife of the permanently disabled victim.
“Rigsby assaulted Randell with his mag lite,” Randell’s wife, Lynnette, said. “Why he’s not been charged is beyond me.”
Wiles’ interests on Facebook include pages “Robertson Family Values,” – a page self-described as promoting “Christian, Rural & Conservative American Values,” and “Young Americans for Liberty,” a 501(c)(3) formed in 2008 at the end of Ron Paul’s presidential bid.
“Sharp County needs new leadership,” said Lynnette. “Any chief that would stand and basically beg to have those crooked cops put back on duty needs to be replaced himself.”
This entire incident was almost swept under the rug. If not for the civil rights lawsuit and the video of the incident being released, the Veazie’s both feel like this would have never seen the light of day. They’re correct.
Police-friendly prosecutors don’t want to risk damaging their working relationships with departments. When something so bad that it can’t be ignored happened, their hands are sometimes forced. Still, a prosecutor will generally hand off the decision to a special prosecutor or a grand-jury.
From there, provable cases of police misconduct often die. Although Trivitt appears to be facing some level of justice for his acts, most of the other officers seem to have escaped that responsibility and may even get their jobs back.
Owing to the human mind’s ability to selectively apply logic when emotional bias is involved, some (including the Ash Flat police chief) see the officers as justified in their interaction that evening. What’s worse is, several area police officers are accused of harassing the Veazie’s in what wife Lynnette feels like was retaliation for their lawsuit.
After we reached out for comment, she told us more.
On September 4, 2018, Lynnette reported to the Sharp County Sheriff’s Office a case of harassment by an officer. She said she and her husband had gone to Flash Market the day before, 6:30 PM, and were confronted by a white male with dirty blonde hair. He was later identified as Kelly Newcom, a reserve police officer from Ash Flat who is no stranger to the news (more on that in a second).
In surveillance footage sent to NEA Report, Newcom is seen in plain clothes following Lynnette in the store and questioning her while pointing outside. No audio is with the video. She said Newcom asked who the male in the car was and said identified himself as law enforcement, “trained to spot people on dope.” Randall was twitching from his brain injuries, Lynnette said, and told the officer that. Despite this, the officer followed her around the store, questioning her and making her feel intimidated. She said he smelled like liquor and “was obviously drunk.” After her complaint was filed, Lynnette said she was told a reprimand was placed in Newcom’s personnel file but that the incident never went any further. She even said one of the sheriff deputies suggested she call the police so Randell could have taken a breathalyzer.
Newcom’s Facebook page is filled with religious posts including images of angels carrying shields and swords, far-right political posts, and conspiratorial nonsense.
Newcom was previously in the news on June 14, 2008 when George Jared at The Jonesboro Sun reported he had been behind the creation of the infamous “Obama 08″/Curious George T-shirts (sold in Marietta, Ga.) that sparked backlash nationwide with most decrying Newcom, and the shirt’s salesman, as racist.
Even worse, Lynnette said this isn’t just an isolated incident of feeling targeted for retribution. She said her family had to move due to constant police harassment.
“We had to get out of Ash Flat,” Lynnette said. “The police constantly harassed us. [We] couldn’t even sit out back without them stopping in front of our house and doing laps around the block.”
They say they’ve stopped receiving updates from the special prosecutor. Now, the Veazie’s are left hoping for what feels to them as far away as a miracle: justice.
“Maybe McQuary has other plans and hasn’t enlightened us yet,” Lynnette said.
NEA Report reached out to the Ash Flat Police Chief but received no response as of this publication.