Man Pleads Not Guilty to Assaulting Whitefish Police Chief

Caleb Buzzell appeared in Flathead County District Court on Nov. 13

By Justin Franz

A Kalispell man who allegedly punched Whitefish’s police chief in the face on Halloween night has pleaded not guilty to assault on a peace officer.

Caleb Buzzell appeared in Flathead County District Court on Nov. 13.

According to Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial and court documents, the Whitefish Police Department received a report of an intoxicated man stumbling in the middle of Spokane Avenue and jumping out of brush and scaring children who were trick or treating on the evening of Oct. 31.

Dial was the closest officer and responded, finding Buzzell stumbling near the First Interstate Bank and yelling at passing cars and pedestrians. The suspect became agitated when Dial approached.

“I just wanted to know who he was so I could give him a ride home but then things escalated,” Dial said.

When Buzzell continued to scream and yell obscenities at people, Dial said he decided to use a Taser to subdue him and place him under arrest. But the Taser was ineffective because Buzzell had a heavy coat on. Dial said he then tried to physically subdue the suspect, but Buzzell then allegedly punched the police chief two or three times in the face, resulting in a broken nose, two black eyes and a few cuts.

Upon seeing Buzzell punching the police chief, two onlookers ran over and helped subdue the man until another officer arrived. Buzzell was placed under arrest and charged with assault on a peace officer. If convicted, Buzzell could face up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

According to Dial and various news reports, this was not the first time Buzzell has been charged with assault on a police officer. Earlier this year, Buzzell was given a deferred sentence after assaulting a Flathead County sheriff’s deputy in 2013.

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