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UPDATED: Three charged after attacking defendant, corrections officers at Pierce County courthouse

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on July 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
July 1, 2011 1:53 pm

Pierce County prosecutors have filed charges against three men accused of attacking a young man on trial for murder and the three corrections officers who were escorting him back to jail at the County-City Building  on Thursday morning.

The three corrections officers were injured. Marsele Henderson, who’s on trial for the 2008 shooting death of 18-year-old Victor Schwenke, suffered a head injury but did not require hospitalization, charging documents state.

Prosecutors charged Reynold K. Taii, 21; Richard U. Taii, 20; and Scotty P. Ropati, 19; today with one count of second-degree assault and three counts of third-degree assault in connection with the incident. During their arraignments this afternoon, each was ordered held in Pierce County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.

Henderson, 20, has been on trial for charges of first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm since June 20. He’s accused of gunning down Schwenke outside a party in the 5600 block of South Yakima Avenue on Nov. 16, 2008.

Prosecutors allege Henderson had been seeking revenge for the death of his friend, 18-year-old Phillip G. Oquendo, who was gunned down a short time earlier  by gang members at a sweet-16 party at the South End Neighborhood Center.

Court documents state that Thursday morning there was a hearing on the third-floor of the County-City Building related to Henderson’s trial. He was in the courtroom but the jury was at recess for the day.

The hearing ended just after 10 a.m. and three corrections officers prepared to take Henderson back to jail. Henderson was handcuffed.

Two corrections officers took Henderson out of a side door as the third corrections officer went out the main door and walked into the hallway near the elevators. The officer moved those in the hallway away from a second hallway where Henderson would be taken, charging documents state.

The corrections officer remained in the main hallway as Henderson and the other two corrections officers went into the second hallway and toward a stairwell.

As they did, three men walked into the main hallway and threw the corrections officer standing guard near the elevator into a wall. They charged through the door to the second hallway and rushed the two officers with Henderson, court documents state.

One corrections officer was driven into and over a chair while the other was forced back. He managed to call for backup.

Meanwhile, the three suspects forced Henderson to the floor and punched and kicked him, charging documents state.

The officer who had been in the main hallway rushed into the second hallway and, along with the other two corrections officers, battled the suspects.

“Multiple Tasers were deployed and the attackers and others involved in the melee were quickly controlled,” charging documents state.

Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said the corrections officers were not going to change tactics in the wake of the incident. The officers had followed protocols for transporting the defendant.

“They cleared the hall,” Troyer said. “(The suspects) came full speed around the corner.”

Troyer called the attack “pretty bold” and noted that Henderson was being escorted by two armed corrections officers.

“They are lucky they were not shot,” Troyer said.

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