OCEAN CITY — More details emerged this week about a potentially violent incident following Donald Trump’s visit to Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin in April including a suspect being subdued with the threat of a Taser by an OCPD officer.
On April 20, Trump visited Berlin for a political rally attended by thousands including supporters, protesters and hundreds more curiosity seekers. While Trump was speaking inside the school, thousands gathered in areas around Decatur including the parking lot of the old Harley Davidson business across the street.
The protests, while somewhat chippy, were by and large peaceful although an incident later in evening after the rally threatened to turn violent. During his monthly briefing on the crime report and Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW), or Taser, use by the department for April, OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro outlined an incident where an undercover officer assigned to the Trump rally had to utilize a Taser to bring into compliance a suspect who was threatening to shoot another man with a stun gun.
According to the report, after the rally was over, an OCPD officer heard what he believed to be a stun gun being activated in the large crowd in the Harley Davidson parking lot. In the accompanying statement of charges against the suspect, later identified as Michael Lamont Purnell, 21, of Delmar, the OCPD officer observed a group of people running toward the east side of the parking lot. As the officer approached the group, the OCPD detective heard a clicking sound and could see a light flicker in the center of the crowd.
According to police reports, the crowd consisted of roughly 20 people. The officer observed Purnell running toward a second male while activating what the detective could then observe was a stun gun. The second male was running backward while yelling at the crowd with Purnell and his stun gun at the front. Purnell then ran toward the second male while activating the stun gun. The gun had a red activation light on and it arced as Purnell ran toward the second male.
Purnell continued to chase the other man from the center of the parking lot to an area in the rear while pointing the stun gun at him, while the crowd began to disperse because of the pending violence. One of the OCPD officers on the scene targeted Purnell with his CEW, which gained immediate compliance and ended the potentially dangerous incident.
Purnell was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. A search incident to the arrest yielded the aforementioned stun gun as well as a canister of pepper spray. The officers noted the canister was recently used by observing fresh remnants of pepper spray on the nozzle. As a side note, the report indicated several people in the parking lot were complaining of pepper spray symptoms including burning eyes and throat, but the officers did not witness Purnell deploying the pepper spray.
Purnell’s arrest was one of three before, during and after the Trump rally at Decatur in April. As part of a pre-arranged agreement among the multiple law enforcement agencies policing the rally, the OCPD was in charge of processing any arrestees, according to Buzzuro.
“It was pre-arranged that we would process any arrestees,” the OCPD chief said during Monday’s Police Commission meeting. “There were just three arrests including the incident where our officer deployed a CEW. There was a minimal number of incidents considering the thousands of people there.”
Lamont was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. He was released the following day on his own recognizance. A trial date has been set for May 24.