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Posted: 3:03 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Police chase canoe, Tase man in the river

By Breaking News Staff

Sandy Collins


A man canoeing on the river with his family was arrested after a witness called police around 4:10 pm and reported he saw the man in a physical altercation with his wife while their children were in the canoe.

Sugarcreek Twp. police responded to the Bellbrook Canoe Livery on Washington Mill Road and waited for the canoe to arrive.

As they waited, witnesses on the Little Miami River identified the family as Josh and Autumn DeHart and their children.

About an hour after police arrived, a single occupant canoe came towards the livery. Police instructed the canoeist to dock. He reportedly refused to acknowledge the officer's directions and kept canoeing. Two officers jumped in an open canoe and rowed after the man, later identified as Joshua Dehart. They were able to take him into custody without incident.

Several other officers waited for the rest of the family at the livery. At 5:15 pm, the officers saw the woman, Autumn Dehart and four children, between 4 and teen years and a shirtless male coming up to the livery. One officer instructed him, later identified as Joshua Drazek, to dock so the officers could investigate the domestic violence complaint.

After communicating an expletive, the man continued down the river, according to the police supplemental report. The officer states he made repeated requests to dock and instructed the man that if he didn't, the officer would "come get him and take him to jail." The man continued on to his destination in Waynesville.

The officer, Sgt. Mark White, reports he removed his gear and shoes, jumped in the water and swam after the canoe with the woman, her children and the shirtless man.

"I swam towards the fleeing canoe constantly advising him that I was the police and that he is being ordered to stop the canoe and the operator (Joe Drazek) began to laugh and tell me that I was not a police officer," White wrote in his report.

About a quarter of a mile down the river, White reports he caught up to the canoe and Drazek tried to hold on to a tree branch to prevent the officer from pushing the canoe to the shore. While trying to climb into the canoe, White indicates that Drazek used the oar to push him back into the river.

White says he was able to get the canoe to the bank and instructed the children and Dehart to exit the canoe while struggling with Drazek. During the altercation, the officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol on the man's breath and several empty beer cans in the canoe.

While still struggling, White reports he instructed Officer Loudermilk who arrived to tase Drazek because the man had tried at least twice to hit him with the oar. In a bear hug, Drazdek reportedly continued to resist and Loudermilk said he warned Drazdek to stop resisting or he would be tased. Loudermilk eventually tased Drazdek in the chest area. He pulled the probes from the taser cartridge while being pushed to the bank, according to the report.

Drazdek continued to resist, so White reports he "drive stunned Drazdek on two occasions until he loosened up and ultimately was handcuffed."

After medics checked him, he was arrested and taken to the Greene County Jail.

After the arrest, Autumn DeHart reportedly told the officer that the family had stopped canoeing for a cookout, grilled food and drank alcohol. Back on the river, her husband of eight years began to tip the canoe with the intent to spill everyone out of the canoe. DeHart said she was worried about her children and told him repeatedly she didn't want him to tip the canoe.

She said her husband began to get increasingly upset and verbally abusive, then tipped over the canoe. One child was ejected with her mother.

Autumn DeHart said her husband wouldn't allow her back into his canoe, so the family then got into Drazdek's canoe to complete the trip. She said her husband was "very verbally abusive towards her" along the rest of the trip.

She elected to not have a protection order placed against her husband.

The case is going before a grand jury. We'll let you know what they decide.


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