Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TOP STORY >> Fireman’s death called a murder

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville firefighter Jason Bowmaster watched from the front row Monday as lawyers delayed the trial of Bryce Allen in Judge John Longston’s crowded courtroom in Little Rock.

Allen, 47, has been charged with first-degree murder and two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder. He allegedly drove around emergency vehicles and struck Bowmaster, Capt. Donald Jones and police officer Daniel DiMatteo with his van in March.

Jones, a 31-year-veteran of the department, died from his injuries. He was the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Allen was originally accused of second-degree murder. He is being held at the Pulaski County Jail.

As the defense attorney, the prosecutor and others rescheduled Allen’s hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 20 because his mental evaluation isn’t complete, the accused killer’s eyes darted back and forth quickly.

Allen’s back was stooped over. His hands and feet were cuffed with a cable connecting the restraints.

He talked over officials as they worked, accusing “everybody” of “hating” him.

Allen said the jail guards were abusing him and changing his medications in an attempt to kill him.

His list of charges, according to the inmate roster on the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office website, include aggravated assault on an employee of a correctional facility.

As Allen was escorted out of the courtroom, he said, “Guess I gotta get back in there and get killed. I’ll get back to preachin’ one of these days.”

Bowmaster left with the help of a four-legged walker. Tears flowed freely from the eyes of family members and friends who followed behind him.

Bowmaster didn’t want to comment. Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said he didn’t know about the hearing Monday, but he will be at the next one on Aug. 20.

Vanderhoof said Bowmaster is “holding up and making progress.” The firefighter is still in physical therapy.

The tragedy occurred after Bowmaster, Jones and DiMatteo responded to a single-vehicle accident at 8411 S. Hwy. 161 between Rixey Road and State Hwy. 440.

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

Allen arrived while the three emergency responders were working the scene.

The police department said its investigation showed that 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.

Allen was arrested in 2009 for second-degree battery of a police officer and terroristic threatening. According to court records, he 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 has also been accused of hitting an Ohio police officer with a different car in October 2011.

According to the police report, a man matching Allen’s description got into an argument with a valet at a hospital. The valet called a security guard.

Jacksonville Capt. Kenny Boyd said the guard was an off-duty policeman.

According to the report, the guard tried to stop Allen. Then the man intentionally struck the guard with the black 2000 Cadillac he was driving.

The guard, who sustained a minor injury, fired his gun at the car, which had Arkansas tags 356RIW.

The Cadillac was owned by Allen, according to Jacksonville police.

The car was found in Lonoke a few days after Jacksonville police requested tips about its location, Boyd told the Leader.