The story, as I originally heard it, had enough detail to be worth checking out: a group called Hunt The Vote had held a fundraiser of sorts in Bentonville, Arkansas, on August 27-28 2020; the fundraiser had been hosted by, or on land owned by, a Bentonville real estate developer; Ted Nugent and Mark Geist had been part of the event; and, most importantly, Benton County Sheriff Shawn Holloway and several Benton County Deputies had attended while on the clock and had allowed the use of county-owned firearms and ammunition during the fundraiser activities.
A story about wasting public funds/property for a political fundraiser would be in my wheelhouse even before you factor in the presence of a clown like Ted Nugent. As these things often do, however, digging into the original story unearthed quite a bit of other information. Responses to FOIA requests returned records that raised more questions than they answered. Reviews of court filings called campaign filings into question. Ultimately, I realized that the fundraiser event was only part of a much bigger story of dishonesty, sloppiness, and mismanagement within the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the fundraiser.
The first thing that I noticed when I started looking for information about the Hunt the Vote event was that it appeared as if someone had attempted to remove as much evidence of the event from the internet as possible. So, we needed to start by establishing that the event actually occurred.
Hunter Nation–the parent entity that operates Hunt the Vote–had this post on their Facebook page, showing Ted Nugent and Mark Geist shooting automatic rifles1 on August 27, 2020, though no location was mentioned. (The video from this post can be seen here.)
Digging around on Twitter, I found two different Arkansans who posted about shooting with Nugent and Geist on the dates in question.
I also found a post from August 28, 2020, that explicitly referred to shooting and meeting Geist and Nugent “in Bentonville.”
So far, the evidence matched the story about a two-day event on August 27 & 28, 2020. I was convinced of that. But what of the part about Benton County Sheriff Shawn Holloway and some of the Benton County deputies being at the event? Well, here is Benton County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant and SWAT Team member Billy Collins posing with Mark Geist and Ted Nugent:
And here is a better version of a picture of Sgt. Collins and Geist from Collins’ own Facebook page.
Oh, and here is a picture of Deputy Waseng Xiang, in uniform, with Ted Nugent on August 27, 2020, talking about a “pretty cool gig today”:
And, then there is this video:
In it, we can see Sgt. Collins filming Nugent from behind, as well as at least two uniformed BCSO deputies and one in the same camo as Collins in the background.
The uniformed deputy furthest to the right in that picture appears to be Dep. Vence Motsinger. The fellow in the camo pants is Detective Matthew Cline. He appears again in this video:
An interesting thing about that video: At very beginning, you hear a voice say, “Shoot the water bottle, Ted.” That voice belongs to none other than Sheriff Shawn Holloway, meaning he was there as well.
On top of the video and photographic evidence, I heard through the grapevine that someone had called the Rogers Police Department regarding a bunch of shots being fired on August 28. So I contacted RPD and asked for the report for any such call. In response, this is what I received:
The CAD Narrative shows RPD confirming that the shots were coming from “county,” meaning members of Benton County Sheriff’s Department. So, all the way around, the story about a Hunt the Vote shooting event with Ted Nugent and Mark Geist and Sheriff Holloway and BCSO deputies appears to check out.
All of this raises an interesting question, though. Given that we have audio, visual, and police-record proof that Sheriff Holloway and at least four deputies were present at this event, why did Hunter Nation say in the comments to this post that there was “no county sheriff on this shoot”?
The reason this is an issue is less about the fact that the Sheriff and BCSO personnel were there and more about the fact that they were there on the county dime. As you can see from their time sheets, Sgt. Collins, Det. Kline, Dep. Xiang, and Dep. Motsinger were all on the clock on August 27 & 28, 2020:
Why in the world were at least four–possibly more–BCSO deputies spending their time as paid county employees hanging out with Ted Nugent and Mark Geist at a private fundraising event for Hunter Nation and/or Hunt the Vote?
It gets worse from there, too. According to two sources, at least some, if not all, of the ammunition used at this event was provided by the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, as were several of the firearms used by attendees. According to one source, at some point during the first day of shooting, Sgt. Collins had Det. Cline go back to the Sheriff’s Office and get more ammunition because they were running low at the event.
Based on this, I sent a FOIA request to the BCSO for all logs of ammunition and firearms checked out or issued over this time period. In response, I received this laughably incomplete, handwritten document, and I was told this was the ammunition log:
Please tell me how, if your log of ammunition leaving the armory does not specify at least what caliber of ammo is being taken, you could possibly keep track of how much of any specific caliber you still have. Because I don’t get it.
But even that “log” is better than what I received regarding my request for records showing what firearms had been checked out or assigned at any given time:
“There is no weapons log check out.”
You have multiple handguns, rifles, and shotguns. You have multiple employees. And you have no way to track who has a given weapon at any particular time???
For the sake of comparison, I requested the weapons check-out log from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. I received three separate documents: one for handguns, one for long guns, and one for shotguns. Each document listed not only the weapon, but it’s purchase price, purchase date, who it was purchased from, a description, number of magazines (if applicable), an internal item number for the weapon, the name of the person to whom it was issued, and the date it was issued.
But Benton County does not even have some handwritten log somewhere? That seems less than ideal as far as keeping track of the location of county-owed firearms.
But I digress.
Given that the details of the Hunt the Vote event checked out as far as date, attendees, location, and presence of Sheriff Holloway and BCSO deputies, plus the way the BCSO guys were helping attendees with loading and using the firearms, I have zero reason to think that Benton County ammo and guns were not used at the event.
Meaning, of course, that you have county employees, on the clock, letting private citizens use county-owned firearms to shoot county-purchased ammunition, all as part of a private event, on private property, held by or on behalf of a special interest group.
I noted at the outset that my original focus was just the Hunt the Vote event, but that the investigation of that event led to additional information that warrants a post. This post has already run pretty long, however, so I am going to split this into a multiple parts and save the campaign issues and failures of leadership for future posts.
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Yes, I realize that Geist’s weapon is likely under 16″ of barrel length and might technically be a pistol or short-barreled rifle. You know what I mean, though.↩