Prison guard faces charges after hitting Cape police officer

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A prison guard got a view of life on the other side of the bars this weekend after Cape Girardeau police charged him with punching an officer.

Tommy Tipler, 41, of 651 Napa Circle, was arrested Saturday after police responded to a domestic disturbance at his home. Officers pushed their way inside after a woman hollered from the window that Tipler would not allow her to open it, police spokesman Jason Selzer said.

When it was over, Tipler was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, both felonies, as well as misdemeanor domestic assault and property damage. He was being held Monday evening at the Cape Girardeau County Jail with a $20,000 bond for his release.

As officer Greg Chenoweth sought to separate Tipler and his wife, Tipler began shouting at him to leave the home, Selzer said.

There were two other women in the home, Tipler's 26-year-old daughter and a friend, Selzer said. As Chenoweth tried to get a statement from them, "Tipler lunged at him, punched him in the face and shoved him backward," Selzer said.

During the struggle, Chenoweth's badge was ripped from his shirt. Eventually, Tipler was subdued by Chenoweth, another officer and a dose of mace, Selzer said.

Tipler struggled as he was placed in the police car and kicked the inside of the door, resulting in the resisting arrest and property damage charges, Selzer said.

In the initial domestic assault, Tipler is charged with throwing his wife to the floor.

Tipler is a correction officer at the Southeast Missouri Correction Center in Charleston, Mo. The high-security prison holds 1,525 inmates serving long terms for violent crimes, superintendent Chuck Dwyer said Monday.

The rules for disciplining guards charged with crimes are flexible, Dwyer said. Tipler is required to report his arrest as soon as he returns to work.

Immediate disciplinary action will be dictated by the nature of the offense and the need to ensure the safety of prisoners and other employees, he said. Final disciplinary action will most likely occur after the courts have dealt with Tipler, Dwyer said.

"Everything is administered on a case-by-case basis," he said. "There is no hard-and-fast rule that covers every situation."

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