A couple camping at Lyle Park in Benton failed to leave as instructed by Benton police and now face charges of criminal trespass.
At 10:30 a.m. on March 3, Officer Mike Connell responded to a call from residents in the area who had contacted the police about the situation. Upon arrival at Lyle Park, Connell found a tent with a car parked in front of it and instructed the occupants to step outside and speak to him.
According to the police report, a man, later identified as Landon Miller, eventually "opened the tent flap.”
“Miller immediately began to argue with me about how he was not breaking any laws," Connell said.
Ordinance 42 of 2003 requires written permission to camp in city parks, which Miller did not have, Connell noted.
Sgt. Hanley Taylor previously had spoken with Miller on Feb. 28 and had informed him to be out of the park by 6:30 p.m. on March 2, according to Connell's report of the incident.
Miller reportedly continued to argue with Connell and eventually exited the tent. A woman inside the tent, identified as Savannah Vandusen, then joined the discussion, Connell said.
Miller and Vandusen allegedly accused Connell of “harassing" them and, according to Connell, “Vandusen told me I was being prejudiced against her because she has brown hair.”
Connell said he continued to explain the prohibition of camping in city parks without written permission.
Lt. Curtis Wood reportedly arrived with a copy of the city ordinance and attempted to explain why the couple would need to leave, but Miller and Vandusen continued to argue with the police officers.
“Miller called me an idiot,” according to Connell’s report. “He told us that for all he knows we were mall cops that stole Benton PD cars.”
Miller and Vandusen were cited for violating the city ordinance and were told to pack their tent and leave the park within 20 minutes.
Wood and Connell reportedly waited at the top of Lyle Park Road. Approximately 40 minutes later, Connell returned to Lyle Park with Capt. Scotty Hodges. At that time, Miller again became argumentative with the police officers, Connell said, and Miller was placed under arrest for criminal trespassing “because they were not in the process of packing their tent and he refused to leave.”
Connell reported that Vandusen’s “attitude became very cooperative and she agree to pack the tent and leave.”
Miller was transported to the Saline County jail, "where he apologized and became very cooperative," Connell said.