Man's transit center smoke break ends in row with cop, arrest

Staff writerJanuary 8, 2014 

A smoke break at a Tacoma transit center culminated earlier this week with an off-duty cop getting punched in the head and a 34-year-old man jailed on an assault charge.

The action took place Monday at the Pierce Transit facility in the 900 block of Commerce Street.

John Eric Bariola allegedly was puffing on a cigarette when he was approached by an off-duty Tacoma police officer working security at the transit center, court records show.

The officer, who was in uniform and driving a marked patrol car, asked Bariola to snuff out the cigarette. Smoking is not allowed at the transit center, the officer explained.  Bariola complied, the records state.

The officer then asked Bariola for identification.

The defendant became upset, the records show.

“He tells the officer that (the officer) is a servant, and to stop being a terrorist,” deputy prosecutor Patrick Cooper wrote in a declaration for probable cause.

The officer persisted in seeking Bariola’s identification, saying that smoking on Pierce Transit property is a misdemeanor and that he needed to identify him.

The defendant persisted in declining, the records show.

“The officer decided to detain the defendant because of the misdemeanor offense and his refusal to identify himself,” Cooper wrote.

That’s when things went sideways.

When the officer reached for Bariola’s right arm to arrest him, the defendant allegedly responded by punching the officer in the face, records show.

The fight was on then, with Bariola allegedly punching the officer repeatedly and the officer responding with at least one punch of his own.

Bariola eventually was subdued and arrested. Both Bariola and the officer suffered minor injuries.

During questioning after his arrest, Bariola allegedly called the officer “a terrorist” again and said he punched him “’cause you’re just a servant.”

Officers said they found a three-inch folding knife in Bariola’s pocket. Bariola allegedly was trying to get his hand into that pocket during the struggle, court records show.

Investigators talked to two people who saw what happened.

One said the officer had no reason to grab Bariola, court records show. The other said she thought the officer acted appropriately.

Bariola, who has no record of arrests in Washington, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to third-degree assault, unlawful transit conduct and resisting arrest. His bail was set at $20,000.

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