Ride-along with Somerset police

David L. Deist, Police Officer
Michael Gray, Police Officer
David L. Deist, Police Officer
Michael Gray, Police Officer

The Tribune-Democrat
Published: June 25, 2006

SOMERSET — It’s a night in Somerset Borough, with Officers Michael Gray and David Deist on the job.

A report comes in about a possible assault on East Patriot Street. Gray, a five-year veteran, and Deist, a 22-year veteran, respond to the house, where one man was reported to have assaulted another.

It was a fight over a girlfriend.

Deist and Gray take the man into custody, but he’s big and surly. And he is already known to police. “I’ll put a gun to my head and we’ll play Russian roulette,” the man says. “I’m ready to die, are you?” He chafes as Deist slips him into the back seat of the patrol car. There’s a strong odor: Sweat? Alcohol?

The arrested man goes on a tirade: “Officer Deist doesn’t like me because I’m from Johnstown. I was in the Navy. Officer Deist doesn’t like me because I was in the Navy. I’ll choke the (expletive) out of Officer Deist.”

The patrolmen are unfazed. “It’ll be OK,” Gray says. “We’re here to help you.” The man wants a cigarette. Gray tells him to wait. “You’re making things difficult so I’ll make things difficult,” the man says. “In five seconds, I’m going to (urinate) all over the back seat of your car.”

The incident is not unusual for a police department such as Somerset Borough, with its seven full-time and nine part-time officers keeping order among more than 6,700 residents.

On this day, one officer is out sick. The two remaining officers on duty escort the suspect to the magistrate on call in Confluence.

Deist mulls over the events leading to the arrest. “He entered the apartment and refused to leave,” Deist says. “She used to be his girlfriend six or seven months ago. She went back to the old boyfriend and had a child with him. He grabbed the new boyfriend by the throat.”

The 911 office is notified, alerts the on-call magistrate and requests state-police coverage for the borough.

Deist charges the man with criminal defiant trespass, harassment and public drunkenness. The man is sent to Somerset County Jail. On the way to the jail, Gray laments leaving the borough unpatrolled for nearly three hours. “It’s our job,” he said. “Not the state police.”

On the way to jail, the arrested man shows a surprising shift of emotions. “I don’t hate you, man,” he tells Deist. “You’re my idol.”

Patrick Buchnowski can be reached at 445-5103 or pbuchnowksi@tribdem.com.

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