Crime

He reported a shooting with 500 people. 2 Benton deputies ended up hurt

A Finley man is believed to have been in the middle of a mental health or drug-induced crisis when he attacked two sheriff’s deputies with a large flashlight.
A Finley man is believed to have been in the middle of a mental health or drug-induced crisis when he attacked two sheriff’s deputies with a large flashlight. Tri-City Herald

Two sheriff’s deputies trying to help a Finley man in the middle of a mental health or drug-induced crisis ended up injured when he allegedly attacked them with a flashlight.

Antonio Perez had been encouraged to get off private property and walk back to his nearby home after his parents called 911 for help with their son.

But an agitated Perez questioned why one deputy had his hand on his gun, then charged at the deputy with a foot-long Maglite-style flashlight, court documents said.

The ensuing scuffle left Benton County Deputy Jorge Garcia with a concussion and bruising to his scalp and Deputy Gerald Cole with a torn muscle in his right shoulder and a bruise on his hand, documents said.

The early-morning attack came hours after Garcia spoke by phone with Perez three separate times about reports of a shooting involving 500 people and a request for Washington State Patrol troopers, SWAT members, artillery and drones, court documents said.

Garcia noted that Perez was not making sense, but eventually calmed down. The deputy offered mental health resources to Perez, but he declined, documents said.

Perez has pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to two counts of second-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault. Trial is scheduled Jan. 28.

The incident happened a day before Perez turned 30.

Perez’s parents called 911 at 2:45 a.m. Nov. 24, asking for help in getting their son home.

The parents feared Perez — who was carrying the large flashlight and a 27-inch-long metal valve key — could be mistaken as a burglar and harmed as he walked across neighboring properties, court documents said.

“They believed he had been hallucinating at their residence based on comments he made while looking out the windows,” documents said.

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When Garcia and Cole responded, they saw Perez in a field off East Donaldson Road and his parents on the roadway. Perez immediately started screaming at the deputies.

Perez followed orders to drop the valve key, but he continued walking through the field until he turned toward the road. He started holding the flashlight like a hammer and advanced toward Garcia.

Cole tried to intervene, but Perez was able to reach Garcia and hit the deputy on the head with the flashlight three to four times, court documents said.

Garcia later reported that he immediately saw spots and felt as if he was going to lose consciousness, but he continued to try to help Cole get control of Perez.

All three ended up on the ground, where they scuffled for about 10 minutes before the deputies could get handcuffs on Perez, who they described as “very strong,” documents said. Cole used his Taser on Perez at one point but it had no effect.

Other deputies had arrived by then and reportedly held Perez’s legs to prevent him from kicking. They took over in getting Perez into a patrol car.

Garcia, who reported having a headache and feeling dizzy, was taken to a Tri-City hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion. Cole also went to a hospital to be evaluated.

Meanwhile, Perez was taken to a hospital to be medically cleared before going to jail. He allegedly was combative with hospital staff and had to be secured to a gurney.

Two days later, he was interviewed by detectives and admitted using both marijuana and methamphetamine, court documents said.

Perez said “that ‘everything went south’ because the deputies were not patient in giving him enough time to comply,” documents said. “He initially stated he didn’t recall striking Deputy Garcia in the head with the flashlight, but then stated that he accidentally hit Deputy Garcia with it twice.”

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer
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