Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 2, 2010

GT County deputy faces assault charges

12-year vet accused of domestic violence, choking state trooper

TRAVERSE CITY — A veteran Grand Traverse sheriff's deputy faces a lengthy list of criminal charges after police said he assaulted two female relatives, then choked a state trooper who responded to an early morning disturbance.

Authorities on Tuesday charged Kipp Alan Needham, a 12-year member of the sheriff's department and its 2007 employee of the year, with assaulting, resisting or obstructing a police officer causing injury, possessing a firearm while intoxicated and two counts of domestic violence. The assault charge is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and/or $5,000.

Michigan State Police responded early Tuesday to a domestic assault complaint in the 4000 block of Baywood Drive in Acme Township. Troopers arrived and found Needham, 35, of Traverse City, face down in the driveway.

Police told Needham to remain on the ground, but he allegedly ignored their orders. Needham ran toward the patrol vehicle, slid his county-issued, loaded semi-automatic pistol toward police and said, "You're going to have to kill me," court records show.

Needham ran to the backyard, and police gave chase with a Taser in hand. He then punched and choked a trooper, police reports show.

Another trooper helped restrain Needham, and they repeatedly struck Needham in the head and handcuffed him.

"Throughout this incident, Needham had slurred rapid speech and his breath reeked of intoxicants," police reports show.

Needham was taken to Munson Medical Center for multiple facial lacerations that required stitches and staples to close the wounds. The trooper who scuffled with Needham was treated at the hospital and received a stitch on his hand.

Hospital staff also drew Needham's blood, which was sent to the state police forensic laboratory to determine his intoxication levels following the assault; test results are pending. Police transported Needham to the Leelanau County Jail because of his job in Grand Traverse, state police Lt. Bill Elliott said.

Grand Traverse Sheriff Tom Bensley on Tuesday suspended Needham without pay. Bensley would not comment on Needham's charges.

Judge Thomas J. Phillips is expected to arraign Needham this morning in 86th District Court. Needham remained in the Leelanau County Jail Tuesday afternoon.

Needham is listed as a social science instructor at Northwestern Michigan College, but he's not scheduled to teach classes during the summer or fall semesters. NMC staff policy states that "if a faculty member is charged with a crime or is alleged to have committed an act of gross misconduct ... the faculty member may be suspended from duty by the board of trustees during the dismissal process."

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