Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 24, 2013

Bar fight segues into chase

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — ACME — Two unruly Wisconsinites cooled their heels in Grand Traverse County jail after they started a fight in an Acme Township bar, threw a pizza at its owner and led deputies on a high-speed pursuit, authorities said.

The two men — a 55-year-old from Milwaukee and a 30-year-old from Hales Corners — await arraignment in Grand Traverse County’s 86th District Court on a smorgasbord of charges from assault to possession of marijuana.

Their journey to Grand Traverse County jail began Monday evening at the Bay View Inn Bar & Grill on U.S. 31. Owner Frank Zarafonitis said the two men sat at the bar, had some drinks and initially showed no sign of trouble.

“My bartender at the time said they were doing fine,” he said. “They went outside to smoke a cigarette and their demeanor totally changed when they came back in.”

Video surveillance footage shows the younger of the two suspects searched through his wallet for several minutes. Zarafonitis said the suspect couldn’t find his credit card and eventually accused the bar of theft. Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Meachum said an argument escalated when one suspect threw a glass toward a female employee.

“She had to duck because the glass would have struck her,” he said.

Zarafonitis confronted the two men, and they threw a glass at him, too. The younger suspect then picked up a take-out pizza box and threw it at the owner. Surveillance footage shows Zarafonitis blocked the pizza box and hit the suspect in the face during the scuffle.

“I tried talking to them,” Zarafonitis said. “They were just irate.”

The suspects left the bar, but Zarafonitis, his kitchen staff and some regular patrons were close behind. Meachum said one suspect tried to punch Zarafonitis, but only succeeded in falling down. Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched at 6:54 p.m. to pursue the Wisconsin vehicle south down U.S. 31 and clocked the vehicle at 87 mph.

Three squad cars boxed the truck in the middle lane at Don’s Drive-In near Four Mile Road. Meachum said the 30-year-old suspect, who drove, tried to pull his wrists away from a deputy as he was being handcuffed. The driver had a .22 percent blood-alcohol level and marijuana was found in his front pants pocket.

Meachum said both suspects have the same last name, but the incident report didn’t specify their relationship. He said the 55-year-old faces charges of disorderly conduct, felonious assault and malicious destruction of property. The 30-year-old faces charges of operating under the influence, fleeing and eluding police, resisting an officer, assault and possession of marijuana.

Zarafonitis said incidents like the fight are now a rare occurrence in the once-rowdy bar.

“The last time something like that happened was, gosh, three years ago,” he said.