Man who bulldozed houses held on $1 million bail
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Barry A. Swegle enters Clallam County Superior Court on Monday. Behind him is court security officer John Beltrami.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Bail of $1 million was set Monday in Clallam County Superior Court for Barry A. Swegle, who climbed aboard his bulldozer midday Friday and crashed through a section of Gales Addition in what neighbor Dan Davis said began with a dispute over a fence.

No one was injured during the 10-minute spree of destruction, during which three homes were destroyed, a fourth home was seriously damaged, a power pole was toppled — and during which Davis, 74, had to dodge the blade of the bulldozer.

Judge Erik Rohrer agreed to set the bail at $1 million, an amount that was requested by Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Troberg, who cited a “concern for public safety.”

Rohrer found probable cause that Swegle, 51, committed two counts of first-degree assault and four counts of first-degree malicious mischief.

Swegle, dressed in a gray T-shirt and gray pants, was not represented by counsel and will try to hire a lawyer, he told Rohrer.

Rohrer said that he will set an arraignment date during a
1 p.m. hearing Wednesday and review the formal charges sought in the case.

Friday's carnage included the destruction of three homes, a pickup truck and a tractor that belonged to Davis, 2325 E. Ryan Road.

Swegle told Clallam County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Boyd that “[Swegle] had a confrontation earlier with Davis, and he is tired of dealing with him over property issues,” according to the Sheriff's Office arrest report filed Monday.

“Swegle said he got into the bulldozer and pushed the houses back.”

Davis said Monday that he started having problems with Swegle when Davis started fencing his own property.

Swegle, who Davis said owns two bulldozers and an excavator, said he needed to go onto Davis' property to maneuver heavy equipment and a dump truck, Davis said Monday.

“When I started fencing my property off, I started having problems with him,” Davis recalled.

“He would tear [the fence] down,” he recalled.

“I put it up four times in the same day, and he knocked it down.

“He was protesting to neighbors and his friends that I was putting infrastructure on property that I owned,” Davis said.

“He wanted to run over it.”

Here's the account of the rampage, according to the arrest report contained in a motion for determination of probable cause:

Davis called Peninsula Communications at 9-1-1 at 12:18 p.m. Friday “reporting that Barry Swegle was in a bulldozer and smashing through” one of Davis' homes, at 309 N. Baker St.

Swegle also ran the bulldozer into a house at 2313 Pioneer Road and “ran over” Davis' truck, a 2003 Ford F-250, the documents said.

Clallam County Sheriff's Deputy Nick Turner arrived at about 12:25 p.m.

“As I ran on foot to intercept the bulldozer, I saw massive damage to other structures and fences with obvious tractor tracks on the ground,” Turner said.

After Turner caught up to the bulldozer, “I was able to get Swegle's attention, and he immediately surrendered,” the deputy said.

Davis said Swegle had tried running him over with the heavy equipment “and had at one point cornered him on the Baker Road property,” Turner said.

“Davis said he had to quickly jump to the side to avoid being struck by the blade of the bulldozer,” Turner said in his arrest report.

Davis then saw Swegle drive toward Davis' Ryan Road home and called his wife to get out.

“She was in her home trying to take a nap when she heard a loud rumbling noise,” Turner said.

“She felt the house jolt, and it felt like an earthquake,” he said.

“Mary got out as Swegle was bulldozing the home.”

Damage allegedly inflicted by Swegle “was in excess of $300,000,” Troberg said during the seven-minute court hearing Monday.

Davis said a portion of the property that Swegle rampaged over was owned by Swegle's grandfather.

Three houses were destroyed, and one was seriously damaged, Davis said.

“He took out the house he was born in, then he took my house out,” Davis said.

“He tweaked my garage so bad, it looks like a diamond.”



Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 13. 2013 6:23PM
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