Charges to be dismissed against mentally disabled man arrested during I-240 bridge incident

Officer Zach Raymond struggles to arrest Terry Menzelle. Captured image of video by WLOS
Officer Zach Raymond struggles to arrest Terry Menzelle. Captured image of video by WLOS

Terry Marzelle, an Asheville man with a mental disability, who was arrested last week during an incident involving a suspicious device on the Haywood Road Bridge over I-240, will not face charges. The arrest was caught on camera by WLOS.

Asheville Police Department Chief Tammy Hooper released a detailed statement this afternoon in response to community concerns over the handling of the arrest. “I recognize the importance of maintaining strong relationships and want to make sure the community has access to accurate information,” said Hooper in her statement, “I have also spoken to the Racial Justice Coalition leadership to discuss the incident and provided detailed information to be shared with concerned members of the community.”

Jodi Rhoden, former owner of Short Street Cakes, on behalf of a group of Marzelle’s friends in West Asheville, has been helping raise funds and support for Marzelle this week. She contacted Mountain Xpress and other media outlets, saying she believed what happened to Marzelle was “newsworthy in the context of the national conversation regarding police brutality and #blacklivesmatter.” She characterized the APD’s treatment of Marzelle as abusive. In her statement on the group’s fundraising support page, Rhoden gave a detailed account, she says with the full knowledge and consent of Marzelle. She wrote:

As you can see in the video, the officer then proceeds to chase Terry down, and, without speaking, grab Terry’s arms, then grab his bicycle, shove his bike into Terry’s testicles, push Terry up against the police car, force him to the ground (still with the bike between his legs), and pin his head to the concrete (choking him and splitting open his chin). Terry was then taken into custody, not read his rights, not communicated to, and charged with “Resisting and Officer” and “Damage to Real Property.” When we picked up Terry at the jail, he had no idea what had happened. He believed he had been detained for failing to cross quickly enough. [read the entire statement here]

At the time of publication, $2,620 from 100 contributors had been raised for Marzelle’s legal needs.

Contacted after the release of Hooper’s statement, Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams told Xpress that after consulting with the chief this afternoon, his office plans to file for a dismissal of Marzelle’s charges Friday when the Clerk of Court’s office is open. “The dismissal will be taken in the interest of justice, and has no bearing on the conduct of the officer involved” Williams said.

Reached for comment on the news that he would not go to court Marzelle said, “Thank you, and I am willing to cooperate.”

Rhoden, said she approves of the D.A.’s decision. “We are really grateful that the charges are being dropped,” she says, “and we recognize that that is the correct action to take, seeing that Terry did nothing wrong and was treated in a very violent, racist, ableist and classist manner.” She says she and Marzelle are “glad to see that small step to rectify the damage that has been done.”

Update 6/30, 1 p.m.: Part of the Chief’s statement below was erroneously left out of an earlier version of this story.

Hooper’s complete statement:

In an effort to respond to the community interest in the June 22, 2017 arrest of Mr. Terry A. Marzelle in west Asheville, Police Chief Tammy Hooper is releasing the following detailed report of the circumstances and actions related to the arrest.  “I recognize the importance of maintaining strong relationships and want to make sure the community has access to accurate information,” said Hooper. “I have also spoken to the Racial Justice Coalition leadership to discuss the incident and provided detailed information to be shared with concerned members of the community.”

The following information is based on the APD’s initial review:

On June 22, 2017, at approximately 11:30 AM, the Asheville Police Department responded to a report of a suspicious device affixed to the Haywood Road Bridge that crosses I-240 in west Asheville. Personnel from the N.C. Department of Transportation initially encountered the device that morning and requested that APD investigate the matter in order to determine if it was a danger to the public.

After an assessment by members of the Hazardous Devices Team (HDT), it was determined that the item needed to be subjected to an X-ray examination in order to learn if the object was an explosive device. Lt. Joe Sorrells coordinated assigning officers to the perimeter of the site, one of whom was Officer Zach Raymond.

The Asheville Fire Department responded to the scene to assist with their equipment and allow for the HDT personnel to gain access to the object.

Lt. Mike Yelton, one of the HDT technicians, observed a man standing on the Haywood Road Bridge directly above the suspicious device. Lt. Yelton loudly ordered the man several times to move away from the object, but that the man, later identified as Terry A. Marzelle, did not comply despite acknowledging Yelton’s presence. Lt. Yelton walked from the shoulder of I-240 up the on-ramp toward the bridge in order to speak to Mr. Marzelle, but Mr. Marzelle rode away on his bicycle once Yelton walked toward him.  Officer Raymond was present at the end of the bridge as he was returning to the interstate, and Lt. Yelton directed Officer Raymond to arrest Mr. Marzelle if he came back and tried to get back on the bridge or interfere in any way so they could safely examine the device.

Once Lt. Yelton returned to the interstate, he informed Lt. Sorrells that Haywood Road needed to be closed for through traffic, including pedestrians, to enable technicians to X-ray the device. Lt. Sorrells communicated this directive to Officers Raymond and Kevin Skonieczny, who both moved to stop traffic on Haywood Road.

A short time later, Officer Raymond saw Mr. Marzelle approaching the bridge once again, and began ordering Mr. Marzelle away from the blocked roadway. Mr. Marzelle ignored his commands and continued toward the bridge. Officer Raymond grabbed onto the front of Mr. Marzelle’s bicycle and Mr. Marzelle attempted to escape his grasp. Officer Raymond began attempting to move Mr. Marzelle’s hands behind his back in order to handcuff him and place him under arrest, but Mr. Marzelle resisted this action. Officer Raymond pushed Mr. Marzelle against his patrol car. Shortly thereafter, Officer Raymond took Mr. Marzelle to the ground to get control of him and place him into custody.

Lt. Sorrells was on the interstate and heard Officer Raymond request assistance via his radio. Lt. Sorrells ran up to the scene where Officer Raymond and Mr. Marzelle were struggling, and assisted Officer Raymond in handcuffing Mr. Marzelle.

Officer Raymond had effectively stopped traffic when he first arrived, but the traffic began flowing once he was engaged in the struggle with Mr. Marzelle because no one was there to actively stop it. Had the device exploded during that time, a number of the people who decided to go across the bridge could have been seriously injured.

Officer Kevin Skonieczny also ran toward Officer Raymond following the request for assistance.

Around this same time, a white Chevrolet truck stopped in the travel lane adjacent to Officer Raymond. An older white male in a blue shirt exited and began walking toward Officer Raymond and Mr. Marzelle. When the man arrived at the scene of the struggle, Officer Raymond and Lieutenant Sorrells were in the process of handcuffing Mr. Marzelle. The man attempted to pull Mr. Marzelle’s bicycle away from the officers. He eventually got the bike and leaned it against the police car. At no time did the man assist the officers with handcuffing or struggling with Mr. Marzelle. Lt. Sorrells told the man that they had the situation under control and to return to his vehicle. The man then walked away from the officers and back to his truck. The man is not an Asheville Police Department employee and APD has not yet been able to identify him.

The Asheville Police Department would like to remind the public that it is not appropriate for a citizen to interfere with an arrest, even if their intentions are to help, as they could potentially endanger themselves, the officers and the person being arrested. Had an officer been there who was not engaged directly with getting Mr. Marzelle in custody, they would not have let the man get so close to the incident. As it was, Lt. Sorrells did as he should have and told him they were OK and the man returned to his vehicle.

Officer Raymond transported Marzelle to the detention center, where he was charged with resisting a public officer and damage to personal property.

Mr. Marzelle stated that his chin hurt when they arrived at the detention center and Officer Raymond indicated this on the intake report upon entering the jail, however, the Intake Sergeant at the Buncombe County Detention Center who was on duty when Officer Raymond arrived with Mr. Marzelle reported that at no point during his contact with Mr. Marzelle did he observe any physical injury nor did Mr. Marzelle complain or report anything to him.  Photos taken during his intake do not show any evidence of injury to Mr. Marzelle.  Mr. Marzelle was not held in jail, but released on his promise to appear immediately after he was charged and booked.

A review is underway to ensure that APD policy and protocol was followed. APD has contacted Adult Protective Services to ensure that Mr. Marzelle receives any needed services. The final outcome of the case now rests with Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams.

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About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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One thought on “Charges to be dismissed against mentally disabled man arrested during I-240 bridge incident

  1. Jason

    Of course charges are dropped!
    U think APD wants to deal with anymore backlash after the stop and frisk profiling report!!?

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