Punxsy Man Facing Aggravated Assault Charges Following Incident Involving Police Officers

54412PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (EYT) – A Punxsutawney man is facing multiple charges after refusing to leave a convenience store and resisting arrest.

According to a criminal complaint, around 4:09 a.m. on February 4, the Punxsutawney Borough Police Department received a call from a convenience store employee who stated that a man in a wheelchair was bothering customers and requested that police ask him to leave.

Punxsutawney Borough Police officers responded to the convenience store located at the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Elk Run Avenue and told the man – 56-year-old James Zane Stewart, of Punxsutawney – that “it was time to go,” the complaint states.

Officers began gathering the man’s belongings that were spread out throughout the store, and as they waited at the front doors, the man stated that he was going to get some hot food. Officers told him that the management of the store wanted him to leave, but the man stated they he was not going to go, the complaint continues.

According to the complaint, Stewart had a metal pipe, and at this point, he thrust it toward one of the officers. The officer told him it was “a very bad idea,” and, the man responded, “What are you going to do, arrest me?” The officer then went behind the motorized wheelchair and attempted to push it forward to remove Stewart from the store. Stewart turned the wheel, so that the wheelchair could not be pushed. The officer attempted to turn the wheel straight on the wheelchair and engage the controls to get it through the doors, and Stewart threw his metal pipe to the left of him. He was told that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. Several edged weapons were in plain view and were easily within his wingspan, so the officers attempted to secure his hands in cuffs.

Stewart was combative and resisted arrest, and as officers attempted to handcuff him, the wheelchair flipped backwards 90 degrees resulting in Stewart being freed from his chair, the complaint indicates.

Stewart continued to resist arrest, and during the exchange, one of the officers received a laceration on his index finger, the complaint states.

A search for weapons on Stewart revealed several razor blades and a needle that were sewn into his clothing, according to the complaint.

Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services arrived on the scene to assess, treat, and transport Stewart. He was uncooperative with EMS and refused to answer the questions, but only spoke “in the third person as if he was talking into some type of voice recorder.” Stewart was then transported to the Punxsutawney Area Hospital’s Emergency Department via ambulance, the complaint continues.

Stewart was arraigned at 1:30 p.m. on February 8 in front of Magisterial District Judge Douglas Robert Chambers.

He faces the following charges:

– Aggravated Assault, Felony 2
– Aggravated Assault, Felony 1
– Criminal Trespass-Enter Structure, Felony 3
– Simple Assault, Misdemeanor 2 (two counts)
– Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Misdemeanor 2
– Resist Arrest/Other Law Enforcement, Misdemeanor 2
– Disorderly Conduct Engage In Fighting, Misdemeanor 3
– Disorderly Conduct-Unreasonable Noise, Misdemeanor 3
– Disorderly Conduct Hazardous/Physical Offense, Misdemeanor 3
– Defiant Trespass Actual Communication To, Misdemeanor 3
– Harassment – Subject Other to Physical Contact, Summary
– Harassment – Course of Conduct W/No Legitimate Purpose, Summary

Unable to post $75,000.00 monetary bail, he was lodged in the Jefferson County Jail.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on March 22 with Judge Chambers presiding.

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