Two Seward police officers last week confronted and subdued an armed suspect who had been kicked out of the Harbor 360 Hotel. The man, initially armed with a knife and rock, allegedly fled police and subsequently armed himself with a pair of pliers.
The suspect, Clifford Wayne Stephens, 30, has been charged with two counts of assault in the third degree, which is a felony, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief. Stephens allegedly told police that he wanted to be killed by police, had been using methamphetamine and suffers from schizophrenia.
The encounter began on the boardwalk behind the hotel and ended in the Chevron gas station on Third Avenue, where officers ultimately overpowered Stephens through multiple applications of a stun gun, according to court documents.
The night desk clerk at the Harbor 360 Hotel called police a little before 2 a.m. on July 29 seeking help with removing someone from the hotel. Corporal Patrick Messmer[KW1] of the Seward Police Department responded and, after a brief conversation with the clerk, walked around to the back of the hotel where he found Stephens.
The incident escalated quickly.
“I approached Stephens and asked him for his identification,” Messmer writes. “He had his hands in his pockets, so I asked him to take them out.”
Stephens allegedly responded by telling Messmer that he was armed and produced a knife from one pocket and a softball-sized rock from the other. Messmer then drew his pistol and called for backup, according to the affidavit.
With Stephens at gun point, Messmer says that he drew his Taser with his left hand as he ordered Stephens to drop the knife and rock. Stephens allegedly put the items on the ground but refused to walk away from them.
Messmer holstered his pistol when Officer Morgan Woodard arrived, he says. Woodard drew his pistol and covered Messmer as he kicked the items away from Stephens, according to the affidavit.
Stephens then fled from the two officers, who were unable to match his pace. The officers located him again at the Chevron gas station on Third Avenue. Sometime since the chase, and unbeknownst to the officers, Stephens had acquired a pair of pliers, the affidavit states.
“I went inside around to the aisle on the left of the suspect hoping to block his escape,” Messmer records. “I did not see that Stephens had armed himself with a pair of pliers. I went hands on trying to take Stephens to the ground. Officer Woodard told me Stephens had a weapon, and I disengaged from him and told Officer Woodard to deploy the Taser, which he did.”
Stephens was reportedly very strong and resisted handcuffing even after the initial stun. Messmer used a baton to lever one of Stephen’s arms out and handcuff it, he writes, but then resorted to the stun gun again.
The electric stun guns, often referred to with the popular trademark Taser, typically have high- and low-powered modes. Messmer employed the low-power “drive stun” mode, he writes, applying the stun gun several times to Stephen’s back, which finally terminated the encounter.
The officers transported Stephens to Providence Seward Medical Center, where he received treatment for injuries, including a cut above his eye.