LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Jacksonville firefighter who was severely injured in the line of duty is fighting for justice six years later.
Jason Bowmaster and his attorney, Aaron Martin, went before the Arkansas State Claims Commission Friday morning to argue the man responsible for changing his life should never have been in Arkansas.
Bowmaster was working an accident in Jacksonville in 2012 when a car crashed into him, his fire captain and a police officer, killing the captain.
Bryce Allen was the driver.
Friday’s hearing focused on what Allen did before that. He was arrested on battery, terroristic threatening and resisting arrest charges but received a conditional release.
Martin said Allen then violated the release, which allowed him to be in Jacksonville in March 2012.
“Bryce Allen should have been brought to court without unnecessary delay and that just didn’t happen unfortunately,” Martin said.
Allen got 70 years in prison.
Bowmaster became 99 percent disabled.
Allen is up for parole in 2020.
Bowmaster can never work again.
“It’s been tough,” Martin said. “It’s been real tough.”
The attorney has represented Bowmaster since the crash. They won a workman’s compensation lawsuit last summer, but Bowmaster said the money will run out in two years.
“This case is where we’re hoping to get a little bit more justice and help the family out,” Martin said.
Defense attorneys asked the claims commission to throw it out, calling it “completely meritless.” Their arguments included how Allen self-reported missing a few doses of medication and traveling out of state.
“If you die in the line of duty, there’s certain benefits you receive,” said Bowmaster during our May 2015 interview with him at his home. “But if you’re just injured and have to retire, there’s not a whole lot out there for you.”
Bowmaster said it’s the difference of $250,000 and $10,000 from the state.
He and his wife, along with the state’s firefighter’s union, are working toward legislation for the 2019 session to change that.
In the meantime, the couple left another hearing upset, sick of weighing the cost of life or death.
“I hope they [commissioners] will take everything into consideration, but we’ll see,” Martin said.
He worries the Arkansas Supreme Court’s recent decision that essentially says citizens cannot sue the state could hurt their case’s odds.