Got him: Man charged after officer seriously burned by Molotov cocktail thrown at his head

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STE. GENEVIEVE, MO – A 34-year-old man is facing charges in connection with a police officer that was seriously burned by lit Molotov cocktail that was thrown at him.

Officials say the suspect is being held in the Ste. Genevieve County Jail with no bond.

According to Ste. Genevieve Police Chief Eric Bennett, 36-year-old Officer Pete Unverferth had responded to the St. Jude subdivision at approximately 1:00 a.m. on April 16th, after a local had reportedly called 911 regarding a subject revving the engine of a motorcycle.

By the time Officer Unverferth had arrived in the area where the call was placed, the officer had made his way up to the driveway of a home when he was allegedly approached from behind by 34-year-old Tyson Paul Heise.

Officials say that the suspect was carrying a lit Molotov cocktail when approaching Officer Unverferth from the rear. The officer reportedly unholstered his Taser and commanded Heise to drop the Molotov cocktail.

Chief Bennett said that an altercation transpired thereafter between the officer and the suspect, which resulted in Officer Unverferth deploying his Taser and Heise allegedly throwing the Molotov cocktail at the officer.

Officer Unverferth was said to have been hit in the arm with the incendiary device allegedly hurled by the suspect, with Chief Bennett stating that the officer proceeded to “stop, drop and roll,” in order to put out the fire that spread across his body.

The officer was said to have suffered severe burns to his arms and legs as a result of the attack.

According to Chief Bennett, family members of the suspect came to the officer’s aid after the flames broke out. Heise’s sister, Erica, recounted the harrowing moments that when she helped Officer Unverferth:

“I panicked and I didn’t know what to do. I ran inside, got a pot of water and as I’m standing there filling it up, it felt like 10 minutes went by. So I just brought out what I had and that’s when he was under the water and I just threw it on him.”

The injured officer was reportedly airlifted to an area hospital for treatment, with officials saying that while Officer Unverferth’s injuries are not life-threatening, he will require surgery.

Investigators that were working the scene of the incident were said to have recovered a “busted and burned glass bottle,” with the neck of the bottle reportedly still intact and the remnants of a “charred” cloth were also present.

The suspect’s parents reportedly informed police that Heise had previously threatened their lives and described their son as being” homicidal and suicidal.”

Heise’s sister effectively referred to her brother as something akin to a proverbial ticking time bomb:

“We knew something bad was going to happen if he didn’t get help. We all seen it coming. Something or somebody was going to get hurt or something was going to happen.”

Keith, Heise’s stepfather, said that his stepson has “been failed by the system,” when remarking on several failed attempts to get Heise the needed mental health services:

“It’s a sad situation. We tried to get him help time and time again before something bad happened.”

Heise was reportedly charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in connection with the incident.

Officer Unverferth was described by Chief Bennett as a 13-year law enforcement veteran, while having spent the past nine years with the Ste. Genevieve Police Department and highlighting the officer’s time within the department’s DARE program:

“He’s a very likeable officer, he was our DARE officer for a while so he has really good rapport in the city. He’s been here for nine years and has always done a really good job for our department.”

It’s unclear when Officer Unverferth will be released from the hospital following his injury.

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Earlier in April, we at Law Enforcement Today reported on a man in Arkansas being charged with attempted capital murder for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers during a chase. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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MADISON COUNTY, AR— On Saturday, April 3rd, a 32-year-old Huntsville man was arrested after allegedly throwing homemade Molotov cocktails at police during a chase through Madison County. He now faces multiple charges, including two counts of attempted capital murder. 

On Monday, April 5th, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release about the incident. The release stated that a ‘suspicious vehicle’ pulled into the parking lot of the Madison County Holding Facility at around 10:40 a.m. on Saturday.

When Lt. Mike Sloan arrived, he attempted to make contact with the man, he reportedly recognized him and was able to identify him as Daniel Joseph Harvey. Harvey allegedly made disturbing comments to the officer before waving a knife and speeding off. 

Sloan wrote:

“He stated we were after him and ‘federal arbitration’ were after him,” 

Harvey then reportedly came to a stop on Hughes Street, just before Main Street. 

Sloan reported:

“Harvey stopped the vehicle, lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it out the window at me while I was trying to exit my patrol vehicle,”

He went on to say:

“The cocktail landed beside my patrol vehicle and burst into flames. Harvey then exited his vehicle with a long machete.”

According to the release, as the officer was exiting his patrol vehicle, Harvey threw a homemade Molotov cocktail at the deputy, causing it to ignite on the street beside the vehicle.

Harvey then got out of the vehicle while holding a machete and was subsequently tased by the officer. This apparently had no effect on him, and he was able to re-enter his vehicle and flee the scene.

According to reports, officers gave chase, and:

“Harvey stopped at several locations on streets in Huntsville and threw Molotov cocktails at the patrol vehicles causing them to ignite on the city streets.”

KNWA reported that Harvey allegedly swerved into a Huntsville police officer’s car, sideswiping the vehicle and causing damage. He continued to flee and a “high speed pursuit” on Highway 23 North ensued. Harvey then pulled into his residence on Highway 23 Spur and brandished the machete.

Police were eventually able to convince Harvey to drop his weapon, and successfully take him into custody. 

Thankfully, no one was injured during the incident.

Harvey is charged with two counts of attempted capital murder, four counts of terroristic act, one count of aggravated assault, one count felony fleeing, one count resisting arrest, one count of speeding 50 mph over the speed limit, one count of leaving the scene of a property damage accident, and one count of reckless driving.

He is being held at the Washington County Detention Center on $750,000 bond.

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