By MARK EVANS
Ste. Genevieve has been hit by the nation-wide surge of violence against law enforcement officers.
Police officer Peter Unverferth was seriously injured early Friday morning when he was struck by a thrown Molotov cocktail.
According to police chief Eric Bennett, Unverferth was responding to the second complaint of the week about a man in the 200 block of St. Jude Drive, revving his motorcycle during the wee hours of the morning.
Unverferth arrived shortly after 1 a.m., Friday.
Bennett gave a recount of what apparently transpired.
“Around 1 o’clock, 911 was called by a neighbor, whose peace was disturbed by the suspect revving up the engine on his motorcycle in his driveway at one o’clock in the morning,” he told the Herald. “Our officer got there and as soon as he got in the driveway, or once he started out of his car, the suspect came around, it’s my understanding, from the back of the house, with the Molotov cocktail already lit, in his hands. The officer got his Taser and was giving commands for him to disarm.”
Until Unverferth is able to give a detailed account himself, there apparently will be some lack of certainty as to exactly what happened, in what order.
“The time line is a little screwy,” Bennett said, “but it sounds like maybe he deployed the Taser and the guy threw the Molotov cocktail at the same time. The Taser was not successful, but the deployment of the Molotov cocktail was.
“It looked like maybe it struck the officer’s forearm and exploded, causing burns on the arms, hands, legs and torso. Then the suspect ran inside and was taken into custody by another officer who arrived on the scene a couple of minutes after, without any incident.”
Officer injuries are rare here.
Bennett said an officer was dragged by a car on Fifth Street a few years ago, but was not seriously injured. Bennett called this “the most significant injury we’ve had” since he became chief.
Tyson Paul Heise, 34, was later charged with first degree assault and armed criminal action and was being held without bond. Heise was not someone Bennett would have expected to have a violent altercation with.
“We didn’t really had any big history with this guy,” Bennett said. “He shouldn’t have had any outstanding beef with us.”
Bennett believes Heise is lucky that Unverferth reached for his Taser instead of his gun.
“That was absolutely a deadly force situation,” he said. “He absolutely would have been justified to use deadly force.”
Unverferth had been with the force from 2008-2016, serving as DARE officer. He then left, before returning in the spring of 2019.
He was one of the least likely officers to arouse someone’s ire, in Bennett’s mind.
“He’s just the nicest officer you would ever want,” Bennett said. “Just a very competent, savvy, dependable, charismatic police officer. He treats people well, he does a good job. This was 100% unprovoked.”