Man pleads not guilty to charges in bulldozer attack
Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Barry A. Swegle, 51, of Port Angeles is seen in Clallam County Superior Court on Wenesday with his attorney, Karen Unger.
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Suspect went to prison as teenPORT ANGELES — Barry A. Swegle entered the state prison system at age 16 after he was sentenced to up to 10 years for breaking and entering Port Angeles High School on Jan. 31, 1978.
A Jan. 4, 1979, article in The Daily News, a predecessor to the Peninsula Daily News, shows Swegle barefoot and in a cell as he awaits transport to the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.
Swegle was prosecuted by then-Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Craig Ritchie, who is now the Sequim city attorney.
“Almost every one of these cases where someone goes to state penitentiary at that age is a tragedy,” Ritchie said in the article.
Ritchie said Wednesday he did not remember much about the case.
“He was a sad case — not a bad guy, not an evil guy, not a vicious or assaultive guy,” Ritchie said Wednesday in an interview.
“He was not someone who went around beating people up.”
State Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis said Wednesday that records were unavailable on how long Swegle served for breaking and entering.
When Swegle was sentenced, it was not that uncommon for teenage offenders around Swegle's age to serve time in the state prison system, Lewis added.
Swegle had served sentences in four state juvenile institutions by the time he was 16, according to the article.
Swegle said in the article that he wanted to quit getting into trouble.
“It's just not worth it, and it's wrong,” he said.
— Peninsula Daily News
Along with the assault charge, Barry A. Swegle, 51, also pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon — “to wit, a bulldozer” — and four counts of first-degree malicious mischief.
The burglary and assault charges carry maximum sentences of life in prison without parole. The malicious-mischief charges have maximum 10-year sentences.
Swegle inflicted about 10 minutes of carnage in about one square block of Gales Addition just east of Port Angeles shortly after noon Friday, authorities said. No one was injured.
The filing of charges was done before Superior Court Judge George L. Wood, who set a trial-setting hearing at 9 a.m. Friday.
“I had no idea that these charging documents would be so creative,” Port Angeles defense attorney Karen Unger told Wood.
“This is extremely creative, given what I know about what happened, particularly the burglary counts,” said Unger, who is representing Swegle.
Swegle, who earlier Friday had allegedly threatened neighbor Dan Davis, 74, was involved in a fence-related property-line dispute with Davis, the neighbor said in an earlier interview.
The threat was determined to be a civil, not a criminal, matter, Todd VanSickle, a communications supervisor with the Clallam County Sheriff's Office, said Wednesday.
Swegle told an arresting deputy that he “had a confrontation” earlier Friday, “and he is tired of dealing with him over property issues,” according to the report filed after his arrest Friday.
Further information on the threat was unavailable Wednesday afternoon.
The Sheriff's Office estimated that about $300,000 of property damage was done in the area of North Baker Street when Swegle allegedly knocked down a power pole, ran three times over Davis' 2003 Ford F-250 pickup truck and destroyed three houses, two of them owned by Davis.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Troberg said Wednesday that the assault charge relates to Swegle's running down Davis, cornering him on Davis' Baker Street property and causing Davis to, according to the arrest report, “quickly jump to the side to avoid being struck by the blade of the bulldozer.”
The first 9-1-1 call about the rampage was received by Peninsula Communications at about 12:18 p.m. Friday, and Swegle was taken into custody by Deputy Nick Turner without incident at 12:28 p.m., according to the arrest report.
“[Davis has] been hassling me for years, nothing against you,” Swegle told Turner during the arrest, according to the report.
Terrorized residents had frantically called 9-1-1 with reports of Swegle wrecking their neighborhood, according to a 9-1-1 recording of the incident obtained by the Peninsula Daily News.
“Barry Swegle is tearing down our houses,” Barbara Porter told the dispatcher.
Davis' 309 N. Baker St. home had been pushed into Porter's 2313 E. Pioneer Road home, inflicting “critical damage” on both structures, according to the arrest report.
Swegle, of 405 N. Baker St., owns four parcels in Gales Addition valued at $200,418, according to the county Assessor's Office.
In Davis' call to 9-1-1, he gives a blow-by-blow account of what happened.
“Some guy with a D9 bulldozer that just come out of my property knocked my fence down and knocked my house down,” Davis tells the dispatcher.
“He totally wrecked my property. He totally wiped it out.
“He's smashing my house plum to pieces — my house, he's smashing it.
“Now he's going right through the center of the house, and there's somebody inside there.”
According to the arrest report, Davis' wife, Mary, “got out as Swegle was bulldozing the home.”
“You better get some cops up here with some guns, 'cause this son of a gun is crazy,” Davis told the dispatcher.
“Now he's tearing the neighbor's place down.
“Now he's back running over my truck.
“He's running right over my new diesel pickup truck, right over the top of it.
“Now he knocked my power out.
“You better get somebody here.
“Now I don't have a house, I don't have a truck, I don't have power on my property,” Davis is heard saying.
“Now he's running over my truck again, completely over the top of it.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified: May 15. 2013 6:23PM