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A 78-year-old man accused of swinging a machete at the Buckley police chief was charged with first-degree assault and felony harassment Thursday.
He pleaded not guilty at arraignment. Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Craig Adams released the man on his own recognizance and ordered him to follow any conditions set by pretrial services.
Charging papers give this account of what happened:
Police Chief Jim Arsanto was getting coffee just before 8 a.m. Wednesday in the 29200 block of state Route 410.
He saw the 78-year-old, whom court records identify as homeless, talking to himself and pulling plants out of a flowerbed.
Then someone tried to walk past, and the 78-year-old yelled and pulled out a folding machete and said he was going to kill the person.
That’s when Arsanto yelled for the suspect to drop the weapon.
“Chief Arsanto identified himself as the Buckley Police Department Chief of Police and told the defendant to put the weapon down and talk to him,” the declaration for determination of probable cause says. “The defendant then stated he was going to kill Chief Arsanto and everybody else.”
Arsanto repeated that the man needed to drop the weapon. The suspect refused, and again said he was going to kill him.
Then the man started swinging the blade at the chief, who was about five feet away.
The blade was about 20 inches long, and if it “had connected, it would have hit (the chief’s) throat,” the probable cause statement says.
Arsanto managed to get the weapon away from the suspect and take him to the ground.
The man appears to suffer from mental illness, according to the charging papers.
“The entire time of the incident with Chief Arsanto the defendant was saying he needed to kill everybody and all cops,” the charging papers say. “As Chief Arsanto was patting the defendant down, the defendant pointed to a dark cloud and said God is coming, God is coming from a cloud, he will help me kill all of you.”
Arsanto said he’s glad that no one was hurt during the incident.
“I sincerely want this gentleman to have every opportunity to get the mental health treatment that he needs,” the chief told The News Tribune.