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Former CPD officer found guilty of DWI

by Staff Report | June 4, 2021 at 10:55 a.m.
Benjamin Opelt

A former Camden Police Officer was found guilty of driving while intoxicated and refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test Friday; a charge of failure to maintain control of a vehicle was dropped.

Former CPD officer Benjamin Opelt, who was arrested in the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 2019, was read the verdict Friday morning by Judge David Graham.

Opelt was sentenced to six months probation and a mandatory DWI course; if he fails to attend the DWI course within 90 days, he could face a 10 day jail sentence. Opelt’s drivers license was also suspended and he was ordered to pay $850 in fines.

Former CPD officer Opelt was arrested in 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 was fired from the police force eight days after his arrest. He 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 Dec. 1, 2019; 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.

The civil suit is still pending.

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