Columbus man denies cop assault

By 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, January 16, 2020
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A Columbus man accused of injuring a Columbus police officer following a traffic stop incident has denied all criminal charges filed against him.

Zane Robert Burch, 38, appeared in custody last Thursday in 22nd Judicial District Court and pleaded not guilty to one felony count of assault on a peace officer and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer.

At the time of his arrest, bail had been set at $35,000. On the joint recommendation of Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde and defense attorney Penelope Strong, Burch was released on his own recognizance. Burch is employed, has young children, lives in Stillwater County and has no criminal record.

Judge Matt Wald set strict release conditions that include alcohol monitoring and a 10 p.m. curfew. Burch was also ordered to not possess any weapon of any type.

THE CASE

On Jan. 4, 2020, at 12:32 a.m., Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Palmer stopped a vehicle on Highway 78 to conduct a DUI investigation, according to court documents. Also responding to the scene at some point were Deputy Cactus Anderson, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wyatt Duncan and Columbus Police Officer Aaron Uecker.

Burch was a passenger in the vehicle. The driver was arrested when he became “verbally combative.”

As the driver was being placed in a patrol car, Deputy Palmer saw Trooper Duncan talking with Burch outside the vehicle while Burch was urinating, according to court documents. Deputy Palmer and Trooper Duncan spoke briefly, during which time Burch nearly urinated on the trooper.

The deputy walked away and heard Burch say “what are you going to do about it?” according to court documents. Deputy Palmer walked back to Burch and Trooper Duncan and could see that Burch was “clearly intoxicated and agitated,” according to court documents. For the second time, Burch nearly urinated on the trooper.

Burch grew increasingly agitated and became fixed on his own genital area, which was still exposed.

The lawmen repeatedly told Burch to cover himself up in an attempt to “de-escalate” the situation. At some point, Burch became fixed on Officer Uecker — staring at him, tensing up his body and taking an aggressive stance, according to court documents. Burch was told repeatedly to look at Deputy Palmer, who was speaking to him. Burch did not comply.

At one point, Officer Uecker reached his hand up to turn Burch’s head toward Deputy Palmer, which angered Burch, prompting him to say “don’t (expletive) touch me,” according to court documents.

Deputy Anderson stepped in and was able to temporarily “de-escalate Burch’s aggressive demeanor,” according to court documents.

Burch eventually approached Uecker, standing close enough to the officer that Burch’s headlamp was shining directly into his eyes. Officer Uecker asked Burch to move the light out of his face multiple times, but Burch did not comply. The officer attempted to move the headlamp himself so that he could see.  Burch slapped his hand away and took an aggressive stance, according to court documents.

Deputy Palmer noted that it appeared to him as if Burch was trying to instigate a fight with Officer Uecker.

At that point, three lawmen attempted to restrain Burch, who did not comply with any commands and became physically combative. It was during this scuffle that Officer Uecker was injured, according to court documents. Burch continued to fight law enforcement to get away from them and refusing to place his hands behind his back.

It was only after a Taser was deployed that the lawmen were able to get Burch under control.

Officer Uecker was transported to the Stillwater Billings Clinic where it was discovered he had suffered tendon and/or ligament damage. Columbus Police Chief Gary Timm said this week that Uecker will continue to be off work for an undetermined amount of time, due to the injury.

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