A Jackson Township farmer has been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, and harassment in connection with an incident that occurred on September 4 during a barn fire on the property of Marlin Getz.
Tim Getz, 35, was charged after Pennsylvania State Trooper Jorge DeJesus said that Getz struck him in the face as DeJesus was attempting to pull Getz from the burning barn on his father’s farm.
Getz, along with his brother, Todd, 39, their father, firefighters, and neighbors were in the process of untying and forcing dairy cattle to exit the smoke-filled barn, trying to get as many cows out of the barn as quickly as they could.
As a result of the quick-moving fire, 14 dairy cows and 10 heifers died.
The cause of the fire has officially been categorized as “undetermined,” according to State Police Fire Marshal John Burns.
During the fire, Tim was forcibly removed from the barn by the state trooper as he was trying to save his cattle, Todd Getz said.
“We needed Tim’s help for another 20 minutes or until the firefighters told us to get out,” Getz said.
According to the Getz family, it was Tim who was assaulted by the officer, along with being prevented from saving more of his cattle.
The event has sparked outrage in the community and a petition demanding that the charges against Getz be dropped his been circulating through the eastern part of the county.
The petition has garnered several thousand signatures, Todd Getz said.
Getz’s preliminary hearing, scheduled for last week, has been postponed until a later date.
Lebanon County’s District Attorney, Dave Arnold, said the postponement was made in order for Arnold and Getz’s attorney, Steven Breit of Lancaster, to discuss the charges and to give them time to obtain a number of reports.
No new hearing date has been agreed upon at this time, Arnold said.
The aggravated assault charge is a felony offense and that’s the charge that many people are decrying as unfair.
“The statute says, for that type of accusation—charged with intentionally causing injury to a police officer—that it must be aggravated assault,” Arnold said.
Arnold said he is not only aware of the petition to have the charges dropped, but that he has received numerous letters from people who are upset about the case.
“I’m very much concerned about the community’s feelings about this,” Arnold said. “I can see the perspective of everybody involved in this and that’s what makes it so challenging for all of us.”
The situation has “got more complicated,” Arnold said, adding, “We’re going to work on it and we’re going to get it right.”
Arnold said he realizes the community backing Getz is well-intentioned.
“Hopefully, the information that people are reacting to is accurate,” Arnold said. “I’m fully aware of everybody involved here and I want people to understand we’re taking this very seriously to make sure we do it the right way.”
According to Todd Getz, the fire on the farm along ELCO Drive was noticed shortly before 8pm on September 4. Flames could be seen coming from the top of the old bank barn, which had an addition built onto it a number of years ago.
Both brothers noticed the fire about the same time, and after calling “911,” ran into the barn to save their cattle.
The Getz family had a milking herd of about 65 cattle, and several more heifers, dry cows, and at least one calf were also in the barn at the time of the fire.
When firefighters arrived, they entered the barn and began cutting chains so more cows could run outside, Getz said.
Standing outside were neighbors who helped to lead the cattle away from the burning building.
The situation became more chaotic after the electric in the building failed, smoke continued to fill the barn, and it was getting dark outside, Getz said.
When Todd began chasing cattle out of the newer addition, he noticed a police officer standing at the doorway and yelling for people to get out, he said.
“One of the neighbors told the officer ‘if you’re not helping, get out of the way,’ “Getz said.
According to Todd Getz, his father and brother Tim were untying cows in the older barn when the officer grabbed Tim’s arm from behind.
Getz said the officer tackled his brother to the ground, where Tim received a head injury.
The state trooper then handcuffed Tim Getz, according to Todd.
“After he walked out with Tim, we were still going in and out and the firefighters were helping us get some cows out,” Getz said. “The firefighters didn’t tell us we had to leave and I think they would have known better when it was time to go.”
Trooper DeJesus is claiming that Getz punched him in the face four times, Todd Getz said.
“How do you punch somebody behind you?” Getz asked. “Tim didn’t even know he was a police officer.”
Tim was first taken to the state police barracks at Jonestown, then to the local hospital because his head injury was bleeding, Getz said.
Tim was held overnight at the county courthouse until his $15,000 bail was posted next morning by the family’s veterinarian, Dr. Gary Brummel of the Fifth Avenue Animal Hospital.
The petition to drop all charges was started by friends of the family, Getz said.
“There were more than 200 people there, trying to help us and he’s the only one who worked against us,” Getz said. “We think it’s kind of ridiculous.”