TARGET 8: Allegations surface after Belle ex-officer is demoted
BELLE - Abatement Officer Tony Baretich is under investigation for 13 complaints that were formally filed against him after he was terminated from the Belle Police Department.
Two months ago, KOMU 8 News reported that Marshal Joe Turnbough pulled Baretich's commission after citizens complained about his work performance.
Turnbough said he terminated Baretich because he was devaluing a police officer’s leadership role and responsibilities.
“We are held to a higher standard with integrity, and as supervisors, we must make sure our officers under us keep that,” Turnbough said. “Our integrity needs to be there.”
Baretich now serves as an abatement officer under the mayor and still receives pay from the Belle Police Department.
Mayor: 'The officer he got rid of was doing the majority of the issuing and tickets'
Mayor Steve Vogt said Turnbough legally didn't have the power to fire Baretich from the police department. Vogt said he kept Baretich as a city employee because he has to follow the city’s ordinances, and Baretich was the only officer who was doing his job.
“We can’t fire somebody just because,” Vogt said. “The officer he got rid of was doing the majority of the issuing and tickets and things, so he was holding his own weight.”
When Turnbough stripped away Baretich’s arrest powers, he then reached out to the Maries County Sheriff's Department to do an investigation.
The Maries County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) investigated 13 complaints that were divided into sections, which include three allegations of insubordination, at least seven allegations of criminal actions and multiple allegations of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.
Out of all 13 complaints, three sections had probable cause statements, recommending the prosecutor file criminal charges against Baretich. The first section that had a probable cause was section one.
SECTION ONE: Accusations of false reports and tampering with evidence
In section one, Baretich was accused of falsely charging former Belle resident Eddie Boulden of destruction to a police car during his arrest outside a local Subway restaurant.
During the investigation, Boulden told MCSD Detective Scott John that Baretich was frustrated with him for resisting arrest. Boulden said Baretich retaliated by charging him for a dent that was already on the patrol car before they ever had an encounter.
Boulden said Baretich told him, “See that dent... Ya, you just did that.”
Turnbough said he and his wife noticed the dent on the patrol car a month after Baretich arrested Boulden for it.
Turnbough said his wife asked Baretich where the dent came from and Baretich said he didn’t know, but he gets mad every time he sees it. Turnbough said he didn't think anything of it then, but he thought it was odd shortly after because Baretich charged Boulden with the dent.
In Baretich’s narrative report, Baretich wrote that he was sent out to Subway for a man trying to steal a car. Baretich wrote that when he arrived, he identified the man as Boulden and began to approach him.
He wrote that Boulden was walking away from him and cussing. Baretich said he eventually gained control of Boulden and placed him in double-locking handcuffs.
He wrote in the narrative that after handcuffing Boulden, he placed him by the rear passenger door of the patrol car to get statements from bystanders. He said while he was getting statements, Boulden began to throw himself around.
Baretich wrote that after putting Boulden in the patrol car, he noticed the dent in the rear passenger door where Boulden was standing.
A witness told detectives when Officer Baretich approached Boulden, he placed him into handcuffs by the driver’s front fender. The witness said once handcuffed, Baretich escorted Boulden to the passenger side and secured him in the patrol car.
The witness said the incident only became physical when Baretich first made contact with Boulden. He said Baretich used minimal force when he put him into the patrol car because it was obvious that Boulden was intoxicated and wasn´t putting up a fight.
The MCSD located two witnesses who supported Boulden's claims. The investigation found that neither witness was connected to Boulden or Baretich.
In the investigation both witnesses said Baretich immediately arrested Boulden when he arrived at Subway. The investigation found that Baretich falsely accused Boulden and falsified his police report.
SECTION EIGHT: Accusations of excessive force
In section eight, Baretich was accused of using excessive force when he arrested Boulden for an incident at Boulden's house.
During the investigation, Boulden told detectives that he was angry about being falsely charged for the dent on the patrol car. He said he called dispatch to talk to Marshal Turnbough or another officer about the complaint.
Shortly after the call, Baretich showed up to Boulden’s house and said he was the officer on duty.
Boulden told detectives he didn’t want to talk to Baretich and began to tell him to leave. He said he was cursing at Baretich, and was under the influence.
Boulden said while telling Baretich to leave, he was walking toward his house and Baretich was following him. Boulden said his mother, Tamara Widener, began to explain to Baretich that her son would rather talk to Turnbough about the complaint.
Widener said she told Baretich to leave before the situation escalated.
“I don’t get why it exploded so fast,” Widener told KOMU 8 News. “All Tony had to do was leave.”
Mother of man arrested by Baretich: 'It just went too far'
While Widener was talking to Baretich, Boulden’s step dad told Boulden to come into the house. Boulden told detectives he went into the house but eventually went back outside and continued to tell the former officer to leave in a hostile manner.
After, both Baretich and Boulden threatened each other and exchanged words; Boulden said Baretich came toward Boulden with a taser and told him to back up. Boulden said he refused to back up and Baretich tased him.
After being tased, Boulden said Baretich punched him in the mouth, threw him onto the porch and landed on top of his back and kidney area.
Widener said she was traumatized when she watched her son get arrested by Baretich.
“I hated it, it was just not right,” Widener said. “It just went too far.”
She said since the incident, she has attended some city council meetings, and while there, she said she was under the impression that the city council members hadn't reviewed the investigation.
“If the council has the authority to terminate, I feel that they should be reading that investigative report to see what that officer has done,” she said.
The concerned mother said she asked the members if they had reviewed the investigation, and only one city council member said they did.
“They haven’t even read it,” Widener said. “There was a comment made it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.”
KOMU 8 News reached out to the city, which confirmed it had not looked at the investigation.
In Baretich’s narrative report, he wrote that he was sent out to Boulden’s house. He wrote that when he arrived, Boulden informed him that he wanted to talk to Marshal Turnbough.
Baretich wrote that Boulden was intoxicated and began to curse at him while he was walking up to his porch. He said Boulden resisted before, during and after being tasered.
He wrote that he eventually got Boulden in the police car and contacted Osage County Communications to request an ambulance and another officer.
When the MCSD investigated the incident, the department reviewed two videos, six photos and analyzed the way Baretich used his taser on Boulden.
The videos and pictures supported Boulden's claims, and the department determined that Baretich tased Boulden unethically and unprofessionally.
The investigation found that Baretich used unnecessary and excessive force when arresting Boulden.
SECTION ELEVEN: Accusations of assault, evidence tampering and corruption
In Section 11, Baretich was accused of behaving corruptly and using excessive force during the arrests of two people, Kyle Wehmeyer and Jana Birks.
Both Wehmeyer and Birks told Detective John they went to Woodlawn Apartments to attend a get together their mutual friend was hosting. Wehmeyer and Birks said Baretich walked by the window of the house and said he smelled weed.
They said the door was already open, and he came in. Once he was in the house, a woman told detectives she asked Baretich why he came in uninvited.
Wehmeyer said he questioned Baretich's attendance as well, and Baretich asked to see Birks and his IDs. Birks said she was sober and went to get her ID out of her purse while Wehmeyer said he was under the influence and told Baretich he didn’t have his ID on him and could go get it. Wehmeyer said Baretich told him not to and to place his hands behind his back.
Wehmeyer said he began to argue with Baretich. He said he told Baretich he didn’t have a right to be in the house, as he placed his hands behind his back. He said Baretich took him outside, told him he was under arrest for disorderly conduct and put him in the patrol car.
When Birks came outside to provide Baretich with her ID, she said she noticed Wehmeyer in the patrol car. She said she went up to the patrol car and asked Wehmeyer what happened.
Birks said Baretich told her to get away from the car or she would be going to jail too. She said as she backed up and began to walk past the abatement officer, Baretich said, “Nope, too late” and pushed her towards the car.
Birks said Baretich turned her around and slammed the cuffs on her, and it left a bruise on her arm. She said she yelled in pain and Baretich said he wasn’t hurting her.
Wehmeyer said Baretich took them to the Belle Police Department and told Wehmeyer if he gave him drug activity information, he would let him walk. Wehmeyer said he didn’t know anything, and Baretich asked a few more times. He said he continued to give Baretich the same answer until they began to head to the Maries County Jail.
On their way there, Birks and Wehmeyer said Baretich took the highway toward their town, Vichy, instead of toward the Maries County Jail. They said Baretich asked them what they knew about Marshal Turnbough. He said if they would tell him what they knew, they would be able to walk away free.
Wehmeyer said he told Baretich the only thing he knew is Marshall Turnbough didn’t like him. Birks and Wehmeyer told detectives that Baretich said the city council would protect him from Turnbough, and he planned to sue the Marshall and the city.
Birks and Wehmeyer said when they arrived at the Maries County Jail, Birks' seatbelt was unfastened. They said Baretich accused her of trying to escape. Wehmeyer said Baretich told Birks to provide information about drug activity or he would reach out to her probation officer. Birks said she didn’t have any information to share and Baretich escorted them into the jail.
In Baretich’s narrative report, Baretich said he received a call from Osage County Communications to call the apartment manager that night. He wrote that he met with the manager, and she told him there were two people who she did not want in her complex and she had asked them to leave several times.
Baretich wrote that both Wehmeyer and Birks were under the influence, and he asked them to step outside. He said Wehmeyer began to argue with him, and they didn’t cooperate.
He wrote in the report that he arrested both Wehmeyer and Birks inside the house and took them outside for his safety. Baretich wrote that Wehmeyer continued to cuss and yell and he ordered him to stop cussing. He wrote that Birks slipped out of her handcuffs and he placed her back in.
Baretich wrote that he arrested Wehmeyer for disorderly conduct. The manager told detectives that she received information from another tenant that some visitors in the apartment complex could have drugs.
After the investigation, MCSD found that evidence and other witnesses supporting Wehmeyer and Birks' claims.
The investigation found that Baretich entered into a private residence uninvited, and there are photos of the bruises on Birks arms to support that Baretich used excessive force when he arrested her.
Where is the case now?
On Oct.17 the city council had a meeting with Marshall Turnbough. They ordered for him not to speak with the media.
Turnbough said he told the city council that Baretich has threatened to take his job, to sue the city and has made a hostile work environment for the police department.
He said the city council members excuse the abatement officer’s actions and he doesn’t think it’s fair.
“They said he can say what he wants because of his First Amendment rights,” Turnbough said. “But then they tell me to not talk to the media; that’s not fair.”
Vogt said he blames Marshall Turnbough for terminating Baretich. He said Turnbough didn’t follow the city’s ordinance.
“The council has to follow the policies and procedures and the ordinance, which states everything needs to be documented in writing, which hasn’t been done,” Vogt said. “We have received no documentations.”
Vogt said this is a personal conflict and Maries County Prosecutor Terry Schwartze declined to prosecute the investigation once it was completed.
“She said there wasn’t anything to prosecute,” Vogt said.
In her letter to Maries County Sheriff Department, Schwartze stated:
“I have reviewed the file, DVDs, photos and statements submitted by MCSD Detective Scott John regarding Belle Police Officer Tony Baretich. I have determined that there is insufficient evidence to support the commission of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt."
City fears a lawsuit; police fear budget issues
Vogt said Baretich will continue to work under him and receive pay from the Belle Police Department until the city council receives the final decision made by Police Officer Standard and Training (POST).
“We’re basically waiting for results from POST to continue one way or the other,” Vogt said. “We can’t dismiss an employee without a just reason.”
The city council gives $205,604 to the Belle Police Department. Salaries and payroll make up to $128,306 of the budget. The police department has $77,298 left over after paying the officers.
Turnbough said he worries if that will be enough to cover all of the police department’s additional cost.
“There’s not enough money in the budget to pay this officer and replace him with another officer,” Turnbough said. “Financially it will put us in a bind for the fiscal year.”
He said the city council’s decision to keep Baretich as an abatement officer puts the public at risk because the police department doesn’t have full-time coverage.
“It takes officers off the street,” Turnbough said. “We have a business that’s open 24 hours; we desperately need that position filled.”
Vogt said he worries about the police department budget and Baretich suing the city of Belle.
"Bottom line, we’re trying to avoid spending city money on a lawsuit,” Vogt said. “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
POST will have a hearing for the investigation on March 18 of next year.