A Cabot man has been charged with manslaughter in the March strangulation death of a Texas man at a Greenbrier music festival.
A local MMA instructor also faces felony charges in 24-year-old Austin Michael Dodson's death. While 34-year-old Anthony Paul Flick was initially pinpointed as the key suspect in Dodson's death, he has since been charged with aggravated assault in the March 17 incident.
Upon further investigation, prosecutors have charged 31-year-old Jacob Isaac Tschopp of Cabot with manslaughter.
"After reviewing the sheriff's office investigation regarding the recent death at the Flux Festival, we have formally charged Jacob Tschopp with manslaughter and Anthony Flick with aggravated assault," 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Luke Ferguson confirmed Monday. "The Faulkner County Sheriff's Office continues to do a good job of tracking down leads in this case and seeking justice. We will partner with them to prosecute those who are responsible to the fullest extent of the law."
Authorities were first alerted of this incident minutes after Dodson was allegedly strangled. However, his death was not ruled a homicide until a state medical examiner later determined foul play was a factor.
An off-duty Faulkner County Sheriff's Office deputy was hired on by festival staff to help with security on the night in question. Because the festival had its own security staff, the deputy was asked to stay near the front gate "to watch for drunk drivers leaving the party," according to a probable cause affidavit.
At one point during the festival, Flick, who was working with Flux Security, rushed to the top of the hill where the FCSO deputy was posted and informed him they were having issues with one of the attendees — Dodson.
Members of the security team told the deputy that Dodson was acting combative "down by the creek" and that he "went to sleep" after fighting with Flux Security.
"I was informed that they had to escort Mr. Dodson to the exit and he went to sleep after fighting down by the creek over his girlfriend," the deputy wrote in his report. "Flux Security moved Mr. Dodson to the grassy area out of the roadway. I noticed that he was still breathing but not talking. I looked back at Mr. Dodson and notice[d] he was not breathing and his face was changing color. I radioed to dispatch for MEMS and explained why they needed dispatch. Flux Security and their medical team worked doing CPR until Guy first responders arrived."
Faulkner County Coroner Jessica Thorn said that after Dodson was pronounced dead at the hospital, her office requested his body be sent to the State Crime Lab so that the medical examiner could perform an autopsy.
According to the probable cause affidavit, authorities initially thought Dodson may have died of a drug overdose. However, following the medical examiner's report, they learned he was strangled to death.
"[The medical examiner] reported he suspect the cause of death is from choke-hold strangulation due to the hemorrhaging of the neck," the affidavit reads in part.
Investigators were able to obtain surveillance footage from outside of the Cadron Creek Outfitters that showed several individuals pull up in a utility task vehicle (UTV) before getting in a heated argument with the victim.
"On the video, a crew cab utility vehicle is seen pulling into camera view," the affidavit reads. "Three individuals exit the front seat of the UTV and two exited out of the back seat of the UTV, leaving the victim seated alone in the back seat of the UTV. The victim, Mr. Dodson, is seen having a conversation with Mr. Flick. It is observed [that] Mr. Flick's body language becomes aggressive and he removes Mr. Dodson from the back seat of the UTV by grabbing the back of his head and forcefully taking him to the ground."
In the video, investigators watched as Flick allegedly places Dodson in a choke hold for about 13 seconds before Dodson fell to the ground. When the 24-year-old victim tried to get back up he was "immediately forced back to the ground and restrained by two other unknown security staff members while Mr. Flick is seen motioning for a third unknown man to leave the area of the scene." At this point, Flick left the scene to grab the sheriff's deputy who was at the top of the hill. While he was away, he had two other men keep Dodson on the ground.
According to a statement by Jason Malonson, who was one of the security members Flick told to restrain Dodson, a man named "Jake," later identified as Tschopp, held the victim down until Dodson defecated himself.
"Malonson said as soon as Mr. Dodson tried to get up again, the other security staff member that he only knows as 'Jake,' immediately got on top of Mr. Dodson and began to restrain him," the deputy wrote in his report. Malonson said 'Jake' was on Mr. Dodson's upper back area close to his head. I asked Malonson if 'Jake' had Mr. Dodson in a choke hold and he told me it is possible but he couldn't really tell how he was holding him from the position he was at during the several minutes 'Jake was on top of him. Malonson told me 'Jake' got off of Mr. Dodson when they noticed he defecated in his pants."
Tschopp, who was formally charged with manslaughter last week, has not yet been arrested on the charges against him.
Flick, who is currently free on a $50,000 bond following a bond hearing held in Faulkner County Circuit Court last week, is set to appear next at 1 p.m. May 25 in circuit court for a review hearing regarding the charges against him.