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Police defending bear melee arrest

June 20, 2008
By Mark Leberfinger, mleberfinger@altoonamirror.com

CLAYSBURG - Donald DiVencenzo apologized Thursday about his voice - now high-pitched and raspy. He said it became that way after he was attacked by police officers Tuesday at the scene of a Claysburg bear shooting. Police, however, say DiVencenzo was taken to the ground after he resisted arrest and was charged with disorderly conduct. DiVencenzo says he was punched in the chest by Roaring Spring Officer David Jacobs. He turned to walk away when Jacobs jumped him, choked him and forced him to the ground with other officers beating on him. DiVencenzo said he has numerous bruises and swellings on his body as a result. "It's absolutely not true," Roaring Spring Police Chief Milton Fields said. "Mr. DiVencenzo is not as accurate as he's telling people. Officer Jacobs observed Mr. DiVencenzo resisting arrest. He came to the officers' aid, taking him by the arm and helped put him to the ground." DiVencenzo was part of the crowd that showed up when a bear came into town and scurried up a tree near McCabe Trucking Inc on Bedford Street. The bear was shot with tranquilizer darts. ''They darted him. We thought, 'Hey, it's going to be a good, happy ending,''' he said. The bear came out of the tree and started toward the mountain behind the business. ''He was nowhere near civilians, except for two teenagers he ran past. The bear ran past those kids without looking at them. He was terrified,'' DiVencenzo said. Officers shot at the bear, which started running toward a stream where more shots were fired, DiVencenzo said. When the shots erupted, the crowd became upset and shouted at officers to stop shooting. ''The people started getting closer. The cops hollered at me to shut up. I said, 'If the bear's coming toward the crowd, why did you shoot the [McCabe] warehouse, which is going the opposite way,''' DiVencenzo said. It was at that point DiVencenzo was taken into custody. He says he wasn't told he was under arrest and was threatened with a variety of charges, including assaulting a police officer. When he left the Greenfield police station, he was told he would be charged only with disorderly conduct. The Pennsylvania Game Commission continued its investigation Thursday into the events that led to the bear's death, spokesman Jerry Feaser said. Part of the investigation was into whether the bear reacted to the actions of the crowd, which police estimated was between 150 and 200 people. Feaser expressed concern that there may be a public misconception over the use of tranquilizer darts. The real world is unlike the TV world where a tranquilized animal falls to the ground within moments of being shot with a dart. He said it may take up to a half hour before the drug takes effect, depending on a variety of factors including: where the bear was shot, the weight of the bear and how much adrenaline is affecting the animal from the situation.

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