By Bradly Gill
A former Camden Police officer who is suing the City of Camden has asked that the civil case be rescheduled so it does not interfere with a criminal DWI case connected to his dismissal.
Former CPD officer Benjamin Opelt was arrested in the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 2019 after he collided with a fence along the playground area of Carver Courts Housing Authority, according to a crash report from the Arkansas State Police.
The report stated that his vehicle left the roadway and struck an AT&T utility pole and then traveled 90 feet before striking the fence. It estimated that $3,000 of damage was done in the crash.
When Camden police arrived on scene that night and called Camden Police Chief Boyd Woody, he instructed them to hand the investigation over to the Arkansas State Police.
Footage from bodycams show Opelt refusing to comply when state troopers ask him to perform a breathalyzer test, according to court records.
Opelt was charged with DWI, as well as failure to maintain control and refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test. The report notes he was suspected of having used alcohol.
Opelt’s civil case is set for May 18, while his criminal case is set for May 21.
Documents filed requesting the rescheduling say that if the civil case proceeds on the current schedule, “the practical effect is that he is muted and unable to pursue his civil suit without limitation. He cannot testify in the civil case without grave risk of his statements used against him by the government.”
Opelt was fired on December 9 2019, and filed a civil suit in March, 2020 after the Camden Civil Service Commission upheld his termination.
A document filed on March 20 states, ”… it is respectfully prayed that this Court will find that the termination was unjustified; that the Court return Lieutenant Opelt to employment and service to the Camden Police Department; that the Court award him back pay and such other monetary damages that he suffered; that the Court award attorney’s fees; and that the Court award the cost of the records, and award to Plaintiff all other relief to which he may show himself to be entitled.”
The city’s answer shows that the Camden Civil Service Commission will prepare a written order containing its decision and that evidence will be made available in the circuit court.
The answer finishes by stating ”The defendants deny all other material allegations contained in plaintiff’s complaint except those specifically admitted hereinabove.”
“ … the Camden Police Department and the City of Camden pray that the plaintiff’s appeal be denied and dismissed and that he take nothing by virtue thereof; That they be awarded their costs and attorney fees incurred herein, and that they be awarded all other just and equitable relief to which they may be entitled, whether or not specifically prayed for herein,” the document reads.
Documents filed along with the Opelt’s civil suit include a letter from a bartender attesting to serving Opelt two shots of whiskey along with Red Bulls on December 1, 20219; the documents note that he appeared to be sober when he left the bar.
Medical documents also detail a head injury Opelt sustained in the collision. Further documents include conversations where the former officer claims he swerved to avoid hitting a deer and lost control of his vehicle.