Michigan Health Department Security Officer Assaulted www.privateofficer.com
Kevin Barchett, 37, of Benton Township was in jail Wednesday facing several charges related to the assault of Ron Tungett, a guard at the health department’s substance abuse treatment office on Pipestone Street.
Tungett, who works for Andrews International, a security company with an office in Benton Harbor, was at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, St. Joseph, Wednesday, recovering from head and facial injuries.
Tungett has worked at the health department for seven or eight years and is very close to the staff, said Mike Mortimore, director of the health department.
“In all my 20 years at the department I’ve never seen anything this severe,” said Colleen Lerret, program manager for the substance abuse treatment office.
Lerret said Barchett had just finished a counseling session and was waiting in the parking lot with his mother while his sister remained inside talking with the counselor.
Barchett, who one person at the scene estimated to be 225 pounds, became irritated and began yelling and then throwing pieces of asphalt at his mother, Tungett told Lerret Tuesday. The guard stepped in to protect the mother and asked Barchett to step away.
Barchett said “Yes, sir,” and that’s the last thing Tungett remembers before being attacked, Lerret was told.
Nurses from the treatment office’s sexually transmitted diseases unit were the first on the scene, keeping Tungett still and trying to slow the bleeding before Medic 1 arrived.
Gwen Agens, a nurse at the health department and a former sheriff’s deputy, was called to the scene with other nurses from the main building after the assault occurred. Dr. Rick Johansen, medical director for the health department, also responded.
Barchett was sitting in his car smoking a cigarette when police arrived, Agens said.
Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Roger Lange said police were called to the health department building at 756 Pipestone St. around 3 p.m. on a report of a disturbance. Patrolmen Dustin Blaskie and Steve Bobo responded and found Barchett sitting in a car outside the building.
Lange said the patrolmen asked him to step out of the vehicle, which he did. When an officer asked Barchett to put his hands behind his back, he refused and started mumbling to himself, Lange said.
Barchett then yelled something and, after being asked several times to put his hands behind his back, made an aggressive move toward one of the officers, Lange said.
“Officer Blaskie deployed a Taser, which did not appear to have any effect on (Barchett),” Lange said. “The man then charged the officer, started swinging and attempting to hit the officers. While they were wrestling with him the Taser got knocked out of officer Blaskie’s hand and a worker there assisted in recovering it.”
Agens, who had been a Berrien County sheriff’s deputy from 1985 to 1990, said Barchett’s mother or sister picked up the Taser as she reached for it and immediately turned it over when Agens asked for it.
Barchett just ripped the Taser prongs from the first shot out of his chest and continued to fight with the police, Agens said. “I knew they could be in trouble and they needed help, that he could injure other people.”
She asked, “Do you want me to tase him?”, and someone answered “Yes,” she said.
Agens ended up straddling Barchett’s legs and firing the Taser directly into his stomach, but this failed to fully subdue him, and she fired again. Agens said she did not know how many times she fired the Taser.
Lange said he had no knowledge of a health department worker using the Taser on the man.
“I’m not aware of that,” Lange said. “But I’m sure it was to assist the officers. I’m just not aware of it, specifically.”
Barchett was still lifting her up with his legs, and Dr. Johansen jumped in and sat on his legs, the nurse said.
Lange said Barchett appeared to have had some mental health problems going on during the struggle, which he said lasted about 15 minutes. Lange said Blaskie and Bobo had called for backup and, by the time it was over, there were seven or eight officers, including Lange, on the scene.
Barchett is charged with aggravated/felonious assault, obstructing police and nonaggravated assault, Lange said.
Agens told the board of health at its Wednesday meeting that Tungett suffered broken cheekbones and a broken nose, and the bones around his eye sockets were also fractured. The good news is there had been no bleeding in the brain, said Agens, who spoke with him Wednesday morning. Agens, a Stevensville resident, has been with the health department since 2007.
Mortimore said the department planned to send a letter to the security company commending Tungett for acting above and beyond the call of duty.