LITTLE ROCK, Ark. April 3 2012— Arkansas’ surgeon general faces three misdemeanor charges from a weekend disturbance in which he challenged a private security guard and then was combative with officers, Little Rock police said Monday.
A police report says Joseph Thompson, 49, confronted a guard employed by Stephens Inc., who was patrolling in Thompson’s Hillcrest neighborhood late Saturday night.
The guard, Jacob Farque, 26, told officers that Thompson confronted him in an angry manner and that Thompson smelled of alcohol. Farque told police he offered to call a supervisor or police and that Thompson “responded with slurs and obscene language,” the report on the incident states.
Farque called police and left the area to meet officers.
Officers found Thompson at his home and noted in the report that his demeanor was angry and reflected intoxication.
Thompson was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and attempt to influence a public servant.
Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said that if Thompson is convicted of the charges the governor would speak with Thompson. At present, there is nothing to prevent Thompson from doing his job as the state’s top physician, DeCample said.
Thompson was appointed by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2005 as the state’s chief health officer and reappointed by Beebe. The office became that of surgeon general in 2007.
Thompson said he will stay on the job.
“I have received many inquiries from the news media today concerning an incident at my home over the weekend. I did have a heated conversation with an individual who was parked in front of my home and using a laptop computer at 10:30 on Saturday night. Concerned that this individual might be attempting to hack into my wireless Internet connection, or worse, I asked him who he was and what he was doing in front of my house,” Thompson said in an emailed statement.
“At the end of the encounter, I went into my home and stayed there until the police knocked on my door, asked me to step outside and placed me under arrest. Pending resolution of this personal matter, I intend to continue my work towards improving the health of Arkansans as Director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement and Surgeon General for Arkansas,” Thompson said in his statement.
Thompson is also a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and director of the nonprofit Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.
A UAMS spokeswoman, Leslie Taylor, said the university regards Thompson’s arrest as a personal matter. She said Chancellor Dan Rahm and other UAMS officials “have great respect for Dr. Thompson and for what he has accomplished to improve the health of the people of the state of Arkansas.”
During the 10:30 p.m. incident Saturday, Thompson told police that the private security patrol was illegal and that Farque had trespassed by parking in front of his house, though the officer told Thompson the acts were within the law.
Farque told police that during the initial confrontation Thompson kept one hand out of view, leading him to wonder whether Thompson had a weapon. During the talk with police, a second officer pointed his flashlight at Thompson’s waistband, prompting Thompson to move within an inch and a half of the officer’s face and yell at him.
“Thompson advised he was the surgeon general and his neighbors would back him in this matter,” the report states.
The officers told Thompson they just had to get information from him and he could go back into his house. Thompson told police he would not comply, the report states.
“Given his hostile demeanor toward officers and refusal to comply with our lawful orders,” the officers told Thompson he was under arrest. Thompson resisted and had to be forced to the ground to be handcuffed, the report states.
While being taken away in a patrol car, Thompson told officers he was the state “surgeon general and you have made a mistake, because I work for the governor,” according to the report.
The report says that when Thompson was placed in an interview room he repeatedly beat on the door and yelled.
The report didn’t indicate that a weapon was found on Thompson.
Thompson spent the night in the Pulaski County Jail and was released Sunday on $2,000 bail. Jail records didn’t indicate whether he has an attorney.
In his years as surgeon general, Thompson has led the state effort to reduce childhood obesity, campaigned against tobacco use and helped pass a 2006 law restricting indoor smoking. He is also a member of the Arkansas Board of Health.
Thompson’s medical degree is from the University of Arkansas of Medical Sciences and has a master’s of public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.