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Palm Coast Friday, Jun. 10, 2016 3 years ago

Man charged with threatening and throwing objects at neighbor, striking deputy with chair

Bruce Penwell, 55, threatened to smash a neighbor's skull with a cinder block, then struck a deputy who tried to arrest him, according to Sheriff's Office reports.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

What started as a verbal argument between neighbors June 8 escalated into multiple criminal charges after one neighbor threatened the life of another, threw objects at him, resisted arrest and then swung a dining table chair at a county deputy, according to an arrest affidavit.

Flagler County Sheriff's Office deputies were dispatched to the 400 block of Bear Trail in the Bulow Plantation RV park in Flagler Beach at about 9 p.m. June 8.

The victim, Richard Ricks, told deputies he'd arrived home from work and heard from his wife that neighbor Bruce Penwell, 55, had threatened to punch her in the mouth, and had said that he should have killed Ricks the previous weekend. 

Ricks confronted Penwell as Penwell pulled into his parking space that evening. But Penwell grabbed two "half pieces of concrete cinder block" and threatened to "smash (Ricks') skull in," according to the arrest affidavit.

Penwell then lobbed one of the cinder blocks at Ricks, who stepped back as the block rolled toward his feet. Ricks told a deputy that Penwell wanted to hit him, and that if Ricks hadn't stepped back, he would have.

Penwell then went back to his yard and grabbed a bucket of sand and tossed that at Ricks. The bucket bounced off the pavement and struck Ricks in the leg, leaving a cut on his left calf. Ricks tried to talk to an RV park employee, and Penwell grabbed a stick and threw it at Ricks, Ricks said. 

A deputy spoke to another witness, who said he'd seen Penwell throw a cinder block and a large stick at Ricks while they were in a "heated argument," and that before throwing the cinder block, Penwell had threatened to smash Ricks' skull.

A second witness also saw Penwell throw the cinder block, the stick and the bucket of sand at Ricks, and told the deputy he heard Penwell say "I'll break you in half" and "I'll kill you" to Ricks. 

At about 9:18 p.m., deputies who arrived at the scene ordered Penwell out of his trailer. He came out briefly, carrying a flashlight and "another unknown object" in his hands, according to the affidavit.

Two deputies identified themselves as law enforcement officers and told Penwell to show his hands. Instead, he walked back inside, slamming the door and ignoring deputies' commands to come out. 

Deputies established a perimeter around the trailer and ordered Penwell to exit. He didn't respond. At about 12:54 a.m, they left, and a deputy wrote in a report that a charging affidavit would be prepared on Penwell and forwarded to the State Attorney's Offce.

By next morning, charges had been prepared against Penwell, and six deputies came back to the Penwell home at about 8:20 a.m. The front door was open.

Three deputies on foot "made a tactical approach" to try to get Penwell outside his trailer. When Penwell walked out, the deputies identified themselves and told him to stop, but he turned around and tried to go back inside. 

One deputy grabbed Penwell, who pulled away and tried to shut himself inside the trailer. The deputy blocked the trailer door with his arm as Penwell ran inside, then followed him. A second deputy fired a Taser at Penwell, but missed. 

Penwell grabbed a chair from the kitchen table, lifted it over his head and hit the deputy with it, striking the deputy's right arm as the deputy blocked the blow. The deputy used "a takedown maneuver to gain physical control" of Penwell, and handcuffed him.

A deputy wrote in the affidavit that Penwell "sustained two minor lacerations to his face," on his cheek and the bridge of his nose. "It is believed that (Penwell) fell and struck an interior step on the 'slide-out' portion of the camper, causing his injuries," the deputy wrote in the report. 

An ambulance was called, but Penwell refused medical attention. The deputy Penwell hit inside the trailer had minor lacerations to his forearm, but did not need medical attention, according to the affidavit.

Penwell is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, battery, obstructing justice, battery on a law enforcement officer, and possession of drug paraphernalia and under 20 grams of marijuana.

He remained at the county jail the evening of June 10 on a combined $35,000 bond.

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