Benton sheriff's deputy arrested

By Paula Horton and Kristin M. Kraemer, Herald staff writersJune 5, 2012 

A Benton County sheriff's deputy is on administrative leave after his arrest over the weekend for allegedly assaulting his wife.

Abel Prieto Campos, 40, spent about 30 hours in the Benton County and Franklin County jails before his appearance Monday morning in Benton County District Court.

Campos was released after his court appearance after pleading innocent to simple assault with domestic violence filed by the city of Richland. Simple assault is a gross misdemeanor offense, comparable to fourth-degree assault.

His duty weapon was seized at the time of his arrest by Richland police, said Richland Capt. Mike Cobb.

Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane told the Herald that Campos was placed on paid leave early Sunday and an internal administrative investigation started Monday.

Campos has been a sheriff's deputy since May 1, 2001.

Richland officers were dispatched at 11:58 p.m. Saturday to Campos' Greenview Drive home to find his wife "visibly upset and crying" while wearing a robe and carrying her 2-year-old daughter, court documents said.

The couple had a birthday party for their daughter Saturday. His wife told officers that when Campos came to bed, "she told him to go somewhere else as he had been drinking and was being disrespectful to her," documents said.

That's when Campos allegedly hit her on the side of the head two or three times while she was lying in bed next to the young girl. Some of the woman's hair was pulled out in the alleged attack, and she later showed police a wad of hair.

The woman told officers that after Campos left the room, she called her mother, who called police, court documents said.

One officer noted that the right side of the woman's head and her right ear were red as if they had been hit, there was a spot behind her right ear where hair appeared to have been pulled out, and there was swelling above her right eye.

Campos told police "it was a verbal argument only," which started when his wife was yelling at him as he came into the bedroom, court documents said. He said he walked out of the room and never touched her, documents said.

Cobb told the Herald that the woman's injuries did not require immediate medical attention, but state law mandates an arrest in domestic violence assaults.

Cobb said he was immediately notified of the incident by his department's on-duty supervisor, which is standard procedure for officer-involved arrests. A sheriff's commander also was called by a sheriff's department on-duty supervisor, he said.

Cobb, who was in contact with the sheriff's commander during the arrest, said he directed his officers to take Campos to the Franklin County jail "because of the risks involved" in housing him at the Benton County jail.

What happened next is characterized by Keane as a "convoluted mess," spurred by what Cobb called "an unfortunate series of miscommunication."

Campos was booked into the Franklin County jail around 3 a.m. Sunday after Benton County District Court Judge Bob Ingvalson ordered Campos serve an eight-hour sobriety hold.

But, Franklin County apparently has a policy that it does not accept sobriety holds without paperwork from the judge, Keane said.

Richland officers contacted Ingvalson, but he didn't have the ability to fax a written order from his Prosser home, so officers were told to contact another judge in the Tri-Cities.

While officers worked to contact Judge Joe Burrowes and get a written order, Franklin County jailers called Benton County and asked that they come get Campos.

Campos was released from the Franklin County jail at 7:53 a.m. Sunday to be transferred to the Benton County jail. He was booked into the Benton County jail at 9:12 a.m., then released four minutes later after jail staff determined the eight-hour hold had expired.

Jail staff determined the eight hours had passed based on the citation time, instead of the initial 3 a.m. booking time.

Benton County sheriff's jail Capt. Jon Law explained that sobriety holds are typically for eight hours, but citations usually have a specified release time. Campos' citation did not, so booking officers called Judge Ingvalson to see if he intended the hold to be for the minimum time or wanted Campos held longer, Law said.

Ingvalson said his intent was for an eight-hour hold, so after officers evaluated Campos and determined he was sober, they released him.

During that time, Burrowes had apparently given Richland officers a written order to keep Campos on a "no bail" hold for court Monday, but the booking officers at the Benton County jail were not aware of that, Law said.

When Richland officers returned to the Franklin County jail with Burrowes' order, they learned Campos was at Benton County. They then discovered Campos had been released.

Richland officers and Benton County sheriff's deputies then had to arrest Campos again and take him back to the Benton County jail, where he was booked in at 11:46 a.m.

Campos represented himself at his arraignment Monday morning. He was still in custody at the time of the hearing inside the Benton County jail, but was released on personal recognizance.

His next court date is June 28.

Judge Burrowes ordered Campos not to consume any alcohol and to have no contact with his wife and daughter while the case is pending. His personal guns reportedly were secured by a relative, but Campos must surrender them to the city of Richland by June 11 to be held by police until the case is resolved.

Sheriff Keane said Campos will remain on administrative leave until both the administrative and criminal investigations are completed.

"We can run them concurrently, but we may run into some potential problems because the threshold for proof is different," he said. "In administrative investigations, we can compel somebody to give statements, but in criminal investigations you can't."

Depending on what is concluded in the administrative investigation, Keane said they may wait to take action until the criminal investigation is done.

Keane said he also intends to review the department's policies and procedures in light of what happened.

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