Man fires stun gun during fight at polling precinct
Argument between 2 Republicans turns violent, witnesses say
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A day of early voting turned violent Thursday in St. Augustine.
At the Southeast Public Library, a candidate for public office and another man got into a heated exchange over sample ballots, according to police.
Witnesses said that the argument quickly turned physical.
According to the police report, it started with questions about sample ballots, and then moved on to name-calling before punches were thrown and a Taser was deployed.
“All of a sudden, we saw two men getting into an argument, yelling at each other and pushing each other and one said, 'You spit on me,' and the other one said, 'I did not,'” witness Judy LaBree said.
LaBree and her husband were volunteering as greeters at the precinct, supporting the Democratic ticket.
She said that she watched as the situation escalated and both men turned to violence.
According to the police report, David Eric West, a member of the Republican Party, unloaded campaign materials from his car near the front of the library.
Merrill Roland, a fellow Republican and a candidate for the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County, asked if he could speak with West, police said.
Once the two began to talk, Roland expressed concern that West was handing out sample ballots that endorsed another candidate, according to the report.
The report said it wasn’t long before the two began yelling obscenities at each other and throwing punches.
Investigators said that's when Roland pulled out a stun gun and fired it at West.
“I have been doing this sort of thing, off-and-on, since 1970 -- in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and now in Florida -- and I have never seen anything close to this,” LaBree said.
According to the report, the Taser didn’t make full contact with West, and he was able to leave the area unhurt.
Both West and Roland contacted police, each asking to press charges against the other.
“I don’t know either of them, and it would be nice if they just learned to get along and everybody tried to keep the peace,” LaBree said.
West declined to comment, and Roland didn’t return calls seeking comment Friday.
Both men are now charged with one count of battery each. The charges have been sent to the State Attorney's Office for review.
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