Monday, September 23, 2013

TOP STORY >> Pre-trial hearing is set for driver

Leader staff writer

The pre-trial hearing for the Jacksonville man charged with the first-degree murder of Fire Capt. Donald “Donnie” Jones will continue at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in Courtroom 220 at the Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock.

The trial for Bryce Allen Jr., 47, is still set to start at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 28 in Courtroom 220. It could be held through Jan. 30. 

The defendant appeared in court Thursday in front of Judge Barry Sims, who will preside over the pre-trial hearing and the trial.

In March 2012, Allen allegedly drove around emergency vehicles at 8411 S. Hwy. 161 and struck Jones, firefighter Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo with his van.

The three men were responding to the scene of a single-vehicle accident involving Allen’s mother, Thelma. She struck a gas main and was not hurt.

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

Bowmaster and DiMatteo were seriously injured. The police officer has returned to duty.
Bowmaster, who had a limp when he attended the hearing Thursday with his wife, was the more severely wounded of the two.

Sims, the judge who ruled in July that Allen is mentally fit to stand trial, continued the hearing at the request of the defendant’s attorney.

The prosecuting attorney said after leaving the courtroom that the pre-trial hearing is just “housekeeping” needed before the January trial.

On Thursday, Allen seemed calm and attentive.

His behavior stood out in stark contrast to an August 2012 appearance when he talked over court officials as they worked to reschedule one of his hearings, accusing “everybody” of “hating” him.

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

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

On Thursday and at the 2012 hearing, his hands and feet were cuffed with a cable connecting the restraints.

This week, Allen’s back was also straight rather than stooped like before. His gait was regular rather than plodding.

Allen has a history of mental illness. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hallucinations and delusions that included paranoia involving the Ku Klux Klan.

According to the police department’s investigation, he made no attempt to brake and even accelerated before hitting the three first responders. Allen also appeared to be aiming toward them, according to the report.

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

He was an Army corporal from 1983-1986.

Allen 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 his car in October 2011.

The guard, who sustained a minor injury, was an off-duty policeman.