A fire captain is accused of attacking an Asian American man outside an Arkansas casino, police say.
Bentonville Fire Department Capt. Benjamin Snodgrass was arrested after a fight outside Oaklawn Casino in Hot Springs on March 13, police say. He was charged with third-degree battery and public intoxication.
Liem Nguyen said he was walking outside the casino when Snodgrass asked whether he knew he was in America and began pushing him, according to an arrest report. They both fell to the ground and punched each other before separating, police say.
“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 told KARK.
Snodgrass had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol and couldn’t speak clearly when police spoke with him at the scene, according to the arrest report.
“I don’t know, man. They are pumping gasses into this place, and something is not right,” Snodgrass told police, according to the arrest report.
Snodgrass later admitted he confronted Nguyen about being an American but “stated nothing happened,” according to the arrest reported. Nguyen had a red mark below his eye, a ripped shirt and scratched knee, police say.
Snodgrass had blood on his lips and an ear and redness on his knuckles, police say.
A Bentonville city official told KNWA that Snodgrass is on leave during an investigation.
“The City of Bentonville does not condone or tolerate any form of discrimination or violence. 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,” Bentonville Mayor Stephanie Orman told KNWA. “We will continue our work to make Bentonville an inclusive, safe, and welcoming environment for all.”
Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming are the only states without a hate crimes law, according to The Associated Press.
Threats and attacks — including hate crimes — against Asian Americans have been on the rise in the U.S. in the year since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Stop APPI Hate, a national coalition documenting and addressing anti-Asian hate and discrimination amid the COVID-19 pandemic, received 3,795 accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states and the District of Columbia between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28.
Nguyen told KARK he’s lived in the U.S. since the early 2000s and never had problems until now.
“I never would have thought I would be in a situation,” Nguyen told KARK. “I’m scared now to go out.”