Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 24, 2014

Snow shovel attack case dropped

TRAVERSE CITY — The Grand Traverse County prosecutor's office dropped a felony charge against a Traverse City man accused of smacking another man in the face with a snow shovel.

Charles William Colpean, 50, walked out of 86th District Court on Valentine's Day after appearing for a preliminary examination on an assault with a dangerous weapon charge. His accuser, a Traverse City man, 44, didn't show up and left prosecutors little choice for how to proceed.

"We dismissed because the victim didn't show up," said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney. "Also, there were concerns about who instigated it."

The police report states the accuser approached Colpean outside Central United Methodist Church on Jan. 29 in "an aggressive manner and started questioning him about a possible assault that occurred some time in the past."

Colpean doesn't deny hitting another man with a snow shovel, but claims he did it in self defense. He also disputed the accusations detailed in court documents that he struck the other man with his fists after the accuser fell to the ground.

"I knew he would do his best to do me harm," Colpean said. " ... I only hit the guy as long as he came after me. He could have easily retreated."

The accuser suffered a "large laceration" on his chin that required attention at Munson Medical Center, the police report states.

Cooney said the charge was dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors could reopen the case. He said the law allows people to defend themselves, but not to escalate the assault with a more serious attack. He said a snow shovel "clearly qualified" as a dangerous weapon.

"You're only allowed to use force reasonably necessary to protect yourself," Cooney said.

Colpean feels his actions were justified.

"I always felt comfortable what I did was in self defense," he said.

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