During a traffic stop in St. James, officers arrested an 84-year-old man, who was taken to a local medical facility after attempting to strike an officer with a closed fist. Later he died from a preexisting condition, according to the incident report issued by the St. James Police Department.
St. James police stopped a vehicle, Eugene Bartle, 84, was driving in the 900 block of North Jefferson Street on Sept. 3. Police say Bartle was traveling north in the 800 block of North Jefferson Street with no headlights or tail lights activated in violation of city ordinance due to others not being able to see the vehicle. When the officer initiated a traffic stop in the parking lot of Dollar General, Bartle immediately exited his vehicle demanding to know why he was pulled over, police say.
The officer said he provided central dispatch with Bartle’s license plate, as well as the location of the stop and turned his body-worn camera on, and told Bartle to get back into the vehicle. Police say, Bartle wouldn’t comply with the officer’s command, and the officer recognized Bartle from prior contacts with police.
While approaching the vehicle, the officer says he advised Bartle to return to his vehicle. Bartle said, “alright I am leaving,” returned to his vehicle and placed it into drive while the officer was standing near the driver side rear tire, according to the incident report, and the car started to move forward while the driver’s side door was still open partially.
The officer reported that he told Bartle to stop and get out of the vehicle and Bartle said he was told to get back into the car. The officer reported that he determined Bartle was attempting to leave the scene and requested that Bartle get out of the vehicle.
Bartle placed the vehicle back in park and stood in the doorway of his vehicle, according to the incident report, and the officer told Bartle, he would be putting him into double locking handcuffs until the officer was able to assure both Bartle’s and the officer’s safety.
While the officer attempted to put Bartle into handcuffs, according to the incident report, Bartle told the officer he wasn’t putting those things on him, and the officer called for a second unit to respond to the location. According to the incident report, the officer says he held the handcuffs in his right hand and used his left hand to take hold of Bartle’s left hand and attempted to put Bartle in handcuffs.
The officer says Bartle jerked his left hand away from the officer, and when the officer attempted to take hold of Bartle’s right hand, Bartle pulled his right hand away from the officer and took a fighting stance and used his right hand and began to throw two to three punches at the officer’s face with a closed fist, according to the incident report.
Police say the officer was unable to block the strikes and the officer dropped the handcuffs and put his arms around Bartle. The officer says, as he was chest to chest with Bartle, Bartle twisted towards the right and both the officer and Bartle fell to the ground, and while lying on the ground Bartle and the officer were both on their left sides in a T configuration, according to the incident report. The officer says he continued to hold both of Bartle’s hands fearing he was possibly concealing a pistol in his waistband as he had done in a prior incident with St. James police, according to the incident report.
The officer says he maintained the position on the ground with Bartle securing Bartle’s hands until other officers could arrive at the scene to assist in putting Bartle in handcuffs.
Once the second officer arrived at the scene to assist with handcuffing Bartle, Bartle said “this was uncalled for,” and the officer said he only performed the traffic stop for Bartle’s exterior lights not functioning and the officer would have issued a written warning, according to the incident report.
During the Sept. 3 incident, the second officer, who arrived at the scene, says when Bartle was put into handcuffs police saw that Bartle’s forearm had a significant skin tear and was bleeding, along with a small laceration to his forehead and requested St. James Ambulance respond to the location. While speaking with Bartle, police say he denied attempting to strike the officer and said, “He believes that St. James Police intentionally try to harass him whenever he comes into town.”
Police say Bartle was advised of his Miranda Rights and Bartle stated that he did not understand them. Police say Bartle was not questioned further and St. James Ambulance arrived shortly after.
Police say Bartle said he did have a firearm in his vehicle and wanted it left alone. Bartle was then taken to the ambulance, his handcuffs were removed and Bartle was turned over to paramedics. Police say, they moved his vehicle into a parking stall and secured the car so it would not be towed from the scene per the second officer’s request, and St. James Ambulance then transported Bartle to Phelps Health for further treatment.
Police later learned that Bartle died on Sept. 8, and had sustained a broken hip during the incident. The officer sustained an abrasion to his right elbow and a hernia that will require surgery to repair. St. James police reopened the investigation and submitted a subpoena to Phelps Health for medical records for Sept. 3 to Sept. 9, 2019.
Seeking an independent opinion, St. James police reached out to the highway patrol. They were informed on Sept. 10 that the Division of Drug and Crime Control wouldn’t investigate the incident because they didn’t identify the incident as a criminal matter. The Phelps County Coroner spoke with the attending physician and also determined the Sept. 3 incident with Bartle was not a criminal matter and Bartle died from a preexisting condition.