Editor’s Note: It is a story with multiple sides, all of which could be resolved with two different court cases in the near future. It also brings up questions about private property, drinking alcohol and operating a tractor on private property, and proper ways to address officers of the law. Reporter Dale Barnett has spoken with all available witnesses to this and has filed the following report. What do you think?
BY DALE BARNETT
ECLECTIC – On March 14, the Eclectic Police Department and the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department were dispatched for a 911 call involving someone allegedly being held at gunpoint in Eclectic.
Note: We have since learned this call was investigated, and the situation was under control a short time later. Officers regarding this case were responding to the call before that was verified.
Eclectic Police Chief Robert Head later confirmed that an officer was on the scene of the 911 call and requested assistance.
A second Eclectic police officer and a Elmore County deputy sheriff were responding to the call to assist. The officers turned off Hwy 170 (also known as Georgia Road) onto a private family road.
Bruce Baker was outside of his shop at the time which is located on the road. The officers told Baker they had a report of someone being held at gun point and gave the address. Baker said he told the officers that address was not on that road and would be further south on Hwy 170.
The police officers continued to drive down the road and stopped at Baker’s house. His wife reportedly told the officers they were at the wrong address.
Charles Scott Emfinger owns a house on the private road. He was operating his tractor in a field in front of his home when the police vehicles arrived.
Emfinger said he watched and listened to the officers speak with Baker and Baker’s wife, and by this time had figured out the officers were at the wrong address. He said he became irritated when he saw the officers turn around in his yard leaving ruts.
Emfinger said he drove his tractor over to the front of his house, waving and yelling at the officer, telling them to get off his property.
From there discussion concerned the officers’ right to be on the road, and whether or not it was legal for Emfinger to be operating a tractor while drinking alcohol.
The police officers got out of their vehicles. According to Emfinger and the witnesses who spoke to the EAN, the Elmore County deputy told Emfinger he would fix the rut in the yard while the Eclectic officer walked to Emfinger and pulled him off his tractor.
There was reportedly mention that Emfinger could be arrested for being intoxicated and operating a tractor.
Emfinger said he questioned how he could be arrested for drinking on his own property.
Emfinger’s brother-in-law, Mr. Baker, pulled Emfinger away from the police officers and about 30 yards away into his yard. The Elmore County Deputy was reportedly threatening to tase Emfinger while Baker was pulling him away. The confrontation de-escalated quickly after the parties were separated. The police officers left the property without making an arrest.
They next morning, March 15th, Emfinger went to the Eclectic Police Department to file a complaint against the officers.
Emfinger states he told Chief Robert Head he wanted to file a complaint against an officer for an incident the day before. Allegedly, Chief Head said he was aware of the incident but would not accept the complaint. He also cautioned Emfinger on how he communicated with any of his officers.
Emfinger left, but returned a short time later to Eclectic Mayor Gary Davenport’s office to file a complaint and found Chief Head there as well.
Emfinger states he told the mayor he wanted to discuss all the issues and to file a complaint. He told the Ean he was informed by Chief Head, “You will be staying with us today.”
The mayor reportedly called an officer into his office and the Chief reportedly told the officer to arrest Emfinger who asked why he was being arrested.
Chief Head allegedly told Emfinger he would be charged for obstruction of government operations, and assault on an officer. Emfinger claims he never touched either officer from the day before.
Emfinger was transported to the Elmore County jail in Wetumpka by an Eclectic officer. When Emfinger was booked, the Eclectic charges were placed for the day before, March 14th. The Elmore County Sheriff’s office also charged Emfinger for Obstruction of Government Operations for March 15th. Bond was set at $5,000 and Emfinger bonded out later that day.
When Mayor Davenport was contacted at Eclectic City Hall, he stated that he recalls Chief Head was in his office on the morning of March 15 giving him details about the incident the day before when Emfinger walked in. Mayor Davenport said that Chief Head told Emfinger he was not going to start again with all the allegations and if he wanted to talk and be civil then he was welcome to talk. But Mayor Davenport said Emfinger continued with the allegations and the Chief advised him that he would be staying with them. He confirmed Chief Head called an officer to the office and instructed them to arrest Emfinger.
Mayor Davenport said he never heard Emfinger state he wanted to file a complaint.
Chief Head stated that he would prefer to allow the case to play out in court and did not wish to address the media. Chief Head did state this was not the first incident involving Emfinger and his officer but did not elaborate.
Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin said it not uncommon for their department to assist local police officers when possible, but he was unaware of any damage to property.
According to the Deputy’s report, Emfinger was highly aggressive and yelling at the officers about being on his property. The Deputy stated they were explaining they were at the wrong address and were in the process of turning around when Emfinger stopped the officers yelling and cursing. The Deputy said they tried to explain to him they were on a legitimate call and simply at the wrong address.
According to the Deputy’s report, Emfinger was already off his tractor and was poking and waving at the Eclectic officer. The Deputy’s report also stated that Emfinger appeared intoxicated, he could smell alcohol and there was alcohol in the cup holder on the tractor. The report further states that Emfinger’s wife and his brother-in-law Baker assisted in removing Emfinger from the confrontation with the officers so they could leave to answer the assist call. The deputy’s report also states that due to the urgent nature of the call and the need to get to the location is the only reason Emfinger was not arrested at the time.
The report does not mention either officer turning around in Emfinger’s yard, nor any ruts being made in the yard.
Sheriff Franklin added that the County is not looking to compound charges and his department will review the charge with the County District attorney based on the handling of charges by the Eclectic Police Department.
Sheriff Franklin emphasized that during any emergency calls, their officers might cross other properties in handling a call, but they have a duty to protect the citizens.
Emfinger’s Court date for the Eclectic charges was on April 7, 2022, at the Eclectic Municipal Court before Judge M. Guy Holton. Emfinger pleaded not guilty, and is now being represented by Montgomery attorney Jeffery Todd Webb. Judge Holton set a court date of May 19th to continue the case in Eclectic.
“We will vigorously represent Emfinger in these cases,” Webb told the EAN.
Emfinger said his biggest concerns are a private citizen having damage done to their property by law enforcement when he feels the officers had no right to be on his property.
He said he feels he was arrested only because he went to file a complaint for the damage to his property.
Emfinger admitted he did cuss at the officer and was angry.
Emfinger also questioned how a citizen could be threatened with being intoxicated on their own property while “not bothering anyone.”
Emfinger told the EAN, “I guess all these questions will be answered in court”.
The Elmore County charge is set for a court date May 7th at the Elmore County Courthouse.