Man accused of attacking deputy with snake

Suspect is in custody

python at Humane Society

June 30, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A generally shy 3 1/2-foot ball python was confined as evidence yesterday -- the alleged weapon in an assault on a Carroll County sheriff's deputy.

"We took him as evidence because the Sheriff's Department asked us to take him," said Nicky Ratliff, executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County Inc.

Deputy Royce Ruby Jr. was in the unusual position of drawing his gun and ordering a suspect to drop the snake.

"I told him to put the snake down, but he kept putting it up in my face," Ruby said yesterday. "I'm not fond of them, but I'm not terrified, so I'm glad it was me and not somebody else."

As for the python, the deputy said, "I guess he was wondering as much as I was what was going on." The animal didn't do much, as the suspect reached out with it wrapped around his hand and wrist, Ruby said.

The incident began about 8 p.m. Monday, when Ruby was trying for the third time to serve a warrant for alleged probation violations on a suspect who worked at a Westminster restaurant. The deputy said he was told the man had fled minutes before to a home on Leisters Church Road.

At that address, a man said the suspect wasn't there but recanted when warned that he could be charged. Ruby said he went upstairs and found the suspect.

"He came out of hiding and had a snake in his hands," according to Ruby's three-page report. "I drew my 9 mm and ordered him several times to put the snake in the cage. Instead, [he] kept shoving the snake at my face."

Ruby said he called downstairs for Cpl. Larry Reid, and a shouting match ensued before the suspect put the snake away and Ruby holstered his gun. The suspect resisted arrest, Ruby said, and the two men began wrestling, with the suspect trying to choke him as the deputy punched and the corporal used a stunning spray.

With both suspects finally handcuffed, they went outside for air and called for an ambulance, as five other sheriff's deputies responded.

Gregory Shaun Handley, 21, who gave court officials an address on Coon Club Road in Westminster, was being held in lieu of $5,000 bail yesterday on four new charges: first-degree assault; reckless endangerment; resisting arrest; and malicious destruction of property -- the deputy's ripped county-issued uniform. The warrants were for alleged violation of probation on prior convictions for theft and malicious destruction of property.

Handley was treated at Carroll County General Hospital after his arrest and turned over to the sheriff. Ruby and Reid also were treated at the hospital.

Also charged was Edward Edgar Ensor, 22, of the 900 block Leisters Church Road. He was released without bail early yesterday after being charged with obstructing justice and hindering a police officer.

Animal control took the snake, which belonged to Handley, who sometimes stayed at the house, Ruby said.

"It's a nice, healthy ball python," Ratliff said of the black-and-tan snake. "These ball pythons are pretty shy and pretty docile, if they're well fed. They generally won't bite unless they're hungry.

"At 3 feet, there's not much danger," she said. But some of its constrictor cousins, such as the reticulated python and the anaconda, can grow to 35 feet and squeeze large prey to death.

Exotic snakes are sometimes found by startled homeowners, Ratliff said. The animal shelter houses two other constrictors whose owners can call to describe and claim them.

Pub Date: 6/30/99

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