From the July 1999 Idaho Observer:
Maced, beaten Newport man to stand trial for failure to stop
NEWPORT, WA -- On January 1, 1999, at approximately 5:30 p.m., a notoriously sober Morris Bereiter, 49, with his two boys Zerah, 14, and Zach, 12, rolled through a rural Pend Oreille County stop sign on an icy road. Although nobody was coming and experienced drivers know that it is safer to avoid coming to a complete stop on an icy road when possible, the infraction resulted in Bereiter having the gun of Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Deputy Greg Rogan pointed at him. Then he was maced. According to the statements of Bereiter and his boys, Deputy Thad Schultz arrived on the scene and the two officers began beating Bereiter, who was already down on the ground and in tremendous pain.
According to the boys, the officers kept saying, "you are resisting, you are resisting," while mercilessly beating their defenseless father.
"I thought this was just a routine traffic stop," remembered Bereiter. Bereiter stated that he had waited a few moments for the officer to approach the car, then he got out "to explain things" to the officer.
"As I approached him I got close enough to see a scared looking face with glazed eyes and a menacing, shaking revolver pointing right at me."
Bereiter said that he offered to give Rogan his driver's license to get the paperwork going. "He responded in a very unfriendly tone, 'you are resisiting, you are resisting.'"
"He told me to get on my knees with my hands in the air. My mind was racing. I was wondering, was he really a police officer? Was he now going to execute me? I couldn't understand why this man was terrorizing me," Bereiter said, still bewildered by the event.
The gravel grinding into his knees was painful, so he told Rogan, "This is ridiculous, I am standing up with my hands in the air."
"Rogan's response was that I was resisting, which I certainly was not -- he had a gun on me and my hands were in the air."
"I told my boys to watch carefully because they were witnesses. They were frightened out of their minds by this time and were begging me to do what he wanted. Just as Shultz's patrol car was approaching, Rogan maced me from a distance of about four feet. I dropped into the snow bank and began to bathe my face in the snow. Shortly after that I was attacked from behind. Now my glasses were gone and I just curled up in a fetal position like I was being attacked by a bear." Bereiter remembers being beaten repeatedly by Rogan and Schultz with fists and knees.
Maced, beaten and bloodied over failure to stop, a sober Berieter was thrown in the Pend Oreille County drunk tank. Bereiter's daughter Katie happened to drive up as her father was being arrested and was allowed to take the boys home. She noted that the police "seemed unusually nervous and on guard."
The incident apparently evolved as a result of Rogan's irritation because Bereiter did not pull over immediately but proceeded until he could pull over in a safe location. Bereiter says there are other people who will attest to Rogan and Schultz's pattern of using excessive force.
Since the beating, the Newport Minerhas published several articles depicting Rogan and Schultz as model public servants.
Bereiter is scheduled to stand trial for resisting arrest, reckless driving and obstructing an officer July 19, 1999, at the Pend Oreille County Courthouse in Newport. Two judges have already been recused. Protem Judge Richard White of Spokane will hear the stop sign proceeding that could result in Bereiter serving more than two years in prison.
All Pend Oreille County residents who are interested in what the punishment for failure to stop will be are encouraged to witness the trial. Guilt or innocence is expected to rest on who is most believable -- the police who stand to lose their jobs and leave the county liable for damages or the well-respected and well-known father who admittedly rolled through the stop sign.
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