Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TOP STORY >> Driver has criminal past, mental problems

Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville man with a violent past and mental problems was charged with second-degree murder and criminal attempt to commit murder after he allegedly drove around emergency vehicles and struck two firefighters and a police officer Monday night.

One firefighter, Capt. Donald Jones, 56, was pronounced dead at the scene after he was hit by 47-year-old Bryce Allen’s van, which was traveling south on Hwy. 161 around 10:50 p.m.

Jones, a 31-year-veteran of the department, is the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Firefighter/engineer Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo were in stable condition Tuesday afternoon, according to Fire Chief John Vanderhoof.

The tragedy occurred after police officers and firefighters responded around 10:30 p.m. to a single-vehicle accident at 8411 Hwy. 161 South between Rixey Road and Intertstate 440.

Bryce Allen’s mother, Thelma Allen, was driving an SUV, which left the roadway and struck a gas main. She was not injured.

Police Capt. Kenny Boyd said at the scene late Monday night that the cause of her accident had not yet been determined.

The three victims were working the scene when Bryce Allen arrived.

“A van came around the fire truck and the police car that were on (the right side coming from Jacksonville) of the highway. The single-vehicle accident that they responded to had busted a gas main, so they had parked a little ways back. They were standing off the side of the road behind (Thelma Allen’s) vehicle when the van came across and struck all three.”

The police department said its investigation showed that Bryce Allen made no attempt to brake and even accelerated before hitting the three men. He also appeared to be aiming toward them, the report says.

Bowmaster was med-flighted to a Little Rock hospital, and DiMatteo was taken to UAMS by ambulance. They were both in critical condition when they arrived at the hospital.

Allen was booked at the police department and is being held without bond.

An Army veteran, Allen was arrested in 2009 for second-degree battery of a police officer and terroristic threatening. According to court records, Allen was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect.

Allen was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hallucinations and delusions. His evaluation said he did not take medications as prescribed.

Some of the delusions included paranoia involving the Ku Klux Klan.

Allen, who was an Army corporal from 1983-1986, told the psychologist who examined him in 2010 that he had been hospitalized eight times, mostly at Fort Roots Veterans Hospital in North Little Rock.

He was arrested again in September for fleeing and reckless driving. Allen was found guilty of the charges in Jacksonville District Court in February but appealed the decision to Pulaski County Circuit Court.

He was arrested for a third time last November for aggravated assault, but that charge was reduced to third-degree domestic battery. Allen is expected to appear in district court April 11.

The most recent incident before the fatal wreck occurred at 113 Stevenson St. The victim, a male relative, said he was in his room playing a video game when he heard what sounded like a pellet gun being fired.

He then felt a round hit him in his shoulder blade.
Allen cursed at the victim when he asked if Allen had shot the pellet gun through the wall.

Allen said he didn’t do anything wrong, but police saw a red swollen mark on the victim’s shoulder blade and the hole in the wall.


Vanderhoof said in a news release about Jones’ death: “A fire chief’s worst nightmare is the loss of a fellow firefighter who has been killed in the line of duty. He started his career with the Jacksonville Fire Department on Dec. 24, 1980.

“He served for 31 years of dedicated service with the Jacksonville Fire Department. He will be missed by his family as well as his firefighting family. He will always be in our hearts and memories.”

Jones worked his way up from managing a hose to captain.

He spent the last several years at Station 4 at 4008 S. First St., which is only a couple of miles from where he was killed and where South First Street turns into South Hwy. 161.

Battalion Fire Chief Eddie Hill said, “He was a very solid guy. He would never say anything bad about anybody, and you could never find anybody to say anything bad about him. He was an excellent firefighter.”

Vanderhoof told The Leader, “We fished together for 30-something years. He was just a darn good guy. He was always faithful. He was a super good guy. He will always be a part of the Jacksonville Fire Department. He’s become part of our history.”

Before Jones became a firefighter, he painted houses on Little Rock Air Force Base, where he spent much of his life because his dad was in the Air Force and retired in Jacksonville.

Jones and his wife, Betty, had four children together. He also had a daughter from his first marriage.

Jones had several grandchildren. He loved hunting and the outdoors.

His brother, Jon, is also a Jacksonville firefighter.

The family was waiting on Tuesday for the coroner to release his body. A funeral service had not been scheduled yet.

Bowmaster, 37, has been with the department for 13 years.