CLEARFIELD – A wanted Clearfield man has been accused of assaulting a local police officer while attempting to avoid apprehension.
Walter P Wilsoncroft Jr., 55, has been charged by Sgt. Crystal Panebianco of the Lawrence Township police with felony aggravated assault, two counts, and disarming law enforcement officer.
He’s also been charged with misdemeanor criminal attempt/simple assault, criminal attempt/recklessly endangering another person, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, two counts, and summary harassment.
Wilsoncroft waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday during centralized court at the Clearfield County Jail. His bail is currently set at $50,000 monetary.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, at approximately 7:59 p.m. Aug. 29, Panebianco and Officer Elliott Neeper were requested to assist Clearfield Borough Officer Ethan Fritz with the apprehension of a wanted male, Wilsoncroft.
Fritz originally went to a Hill Street address to follow-up on a theft investigation. As he cleared the scene, he observed Wilsoncroft and recognized him due to prior encounters. Fritz was aware of an active warrant for Wilsoncroft through the county’s Sheriff’s office.
When Fritz started to approach Wilsoncroft, he walked away. The officer ordered for Wilsoncroft to drop the hatchet he had in his hand, which he did.
However, he reportedly fled on foot when Fritz attempted to take him into custody. At one point, the officer grabbed Wilsoncroft by both arms, but he escaped.
After a short foot pursuit, Fritz said he was able to grab Wilsoncroft again, and they both fell to the ground.
With Wilsoncroft in a face-down position, Fritz attempted to grab him by the arms, but Wilsoncroft managed to roll onto his back, allegedly “lunged” toward Fritz and pinned him face-down on the ground.
He then put his arm around Fritz’s neck, applying pressure and forcing his face into the ground near a burning camp fire pit, according to the affidavit.
Fritz told township officers that his face was so close to the fire pit that he could feel the “burning heat” from the fire on his cheeks. He said he could also feel Wilsoncroft reaching for his holster and fumbling to get his duty weapon.
As a physical struggle ensued, he said Wilsoncroft used his other arm to apply pressure around his neck. Fearing death or serious bodily injury, Fritz said he got his left arm around Wilsoncroft’s neck and told him to “let go and this will all be over.”
He went on to tell Wilsoncroft that he would just leave, and he wouldn’t tell anyone about the incident. He said Wilsoncroft replied, “you let go first,” and when he (Fritz) released his hold, Wilsoncroft released his, as well.
Wilsoncroft stood up and reportedly fled on foot again. At this point, Fritz realized he’d suffered an injury to his right ring finger, which was “deformed” and painful. However, a foot pursuit ensued through a wooded area to the rear of a Hill Street residence.
Due to the loose and steep terrain, Wilsoncroft fell many times, which allowed Fritz to catch up. Fritz continued to order loudly for Wilsoncroft to stop and show his hands.
He said instead of being compliant, Wilsoncroft turned and lunged at him a second time. This time he said he deployed one cartridge from his taser, and it incapacitated Wilsoncroft, who surrendered saying “I’m done.”
Wilsoncroft remained on the ground to be handcuffed and taken into custody. He was subsequently transported and housed in county jail on the sheriff’s warrant.
Fritz was transported by another officer to the Clearfield Penn Highlands Hospital for a medical evaluation of his injury.
Fritz was diagnosed with a “mallet finger” and advised that his tendon was torn, which may require surgery. His finger was bent back into its correct place and put in a splint, according to the affidavit.