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Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - August 2010
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Onalaska man charged with assault on 3 police officers
Polk County Enterprise

ONALASKA — An Onalaska man is out on bond after he attempted to run over police officers attempting to intervene after the man called his mother and said he was going to shoot himself in the head recently. Onalaska Police Department Det. Troy Binford said that incident followed a series of police calls involving bizarre behavior exhibited by Billy Vern Bassham Jr., 58, over the past month. Binford and OPD Officer Jacob Chapman were dispatched to Bassham’s residence after the Polk County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from Bassham’s residence June 25. The caller hung up after making the call. When officers arrived, Bassham was throwing computer monitors and other items out of his house in Twin Harbors. Binford said Bassham was making comments that seemed to indicate he may be in the midst of a mental health crisis. Among the statements Bassham made to Binford was a comment that he had just got back from Africa and all his exotic animals had escaped. Officers from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrived and Bassham said he was going inside his house to eat breakfast, and gave officers permission to enter the house. Inside, Binford saw a small quantity of marijuana on a crushed soft drink can in plain sight. Binford said it appeared the man was using the can to smoke marijuana. He was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and Binford arranged for staff at the Burke Center to evaluate Bassham’s psychological status. Burke Center staff cleared Bassham and he was released from the jail on bond. On June 28, OPD received a call that the man was exhibiting unusual behavior at an Onalaska business. Later that night, Officer Chapman received a call from the man’s mother saying he was threatening to shoot himself in the head. Binford, Chapman and a reserve officer were staged at a boat ramp near Bassham’s house discussing how they would approach the house which is up on stilts. During their discussion, the man’s brother drives up and tells them he believes his brother had stopped taking medications and had starting drinking. He also warned the officers that a prior disagreement ended with the troubled man shooting up his house. As they talked, Binford said he saw a vehicle approaching the boat ramp, he asked the brother if he recognized the vehicle and he identified the driver as his brother. “When he saw officers standing there, he floored it and came toward us at a high rate of speed,” Binford said. “All we could do was jump out of the way.” He slammed on the brakes and turned away from police vehicles before exiting the vehicle, running onto a pier and announcing to the officers, “You’re going to have to shoot me.” Binford asked Bassham if he had any weapons and he said yes. Binford instructed him to keep his hands visible. “He looked at us and then made an overt move and put his hands behind his back,” Binford said. Binford continued to instruct the man to let him see his hands and not to pull out a gun. “He finally raised his hands and shot us the finger,” Binford said. Binford then instructed the man to raise his shirt so officers could see if there was a weapon in his waistband and he took off his shirt. When Binford asked if he had anything in his pockets, the man kicked off his boots and pulled down his pants. Binford asked the man to come off the pier. After repeatedly telling officers to “come get me,” Bassham dove into the water. Officers tried to talk Bassham into coming back to shore while Binford called for the Onalaska Fire Department’s rescue boat and game wardens. OVFD and game wardens arrived and launched their boats while Bassham continued to swim around. Two deputies also boarded the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. boat, but Bassham continued to swim away from the boats and hiding under the pier. Finally, Bassham grabbed the side of the TPWD boat and game wardens pulled him into the boat and took him into custody. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault on a public servant with a deadly weapon for charging the officers in his vehicle as well as evading and resisting arrest. Binford recalled those charges so Bassham could be transferred to Rusk State Hospital for evaluation. He was released last Tuesday and Binford obtained a new arrest warrant on the first degree felony charges. Bassham finally surrendered to officers Friday and he has since been released on bonds totaling $85,000. OPD and the sheriff’s department are continuing to investigate.


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