Sword wielder arrested for second assault charge

Published 11:03 am Sunday, December 27, 2015

A man previously charged with assaulting several people with a wooden samurai sword was arrested again on Dec. 16 for allegedly smashing a vehicle window, hitting another vehicle and assaulting someone.

Benjamin Lerum, 18, was charged with one count of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of first-degree criminal damage to property. Lerum was also recently charged with three counts of felony second-degree assault in a previous incident, which took place Nov. 20, and which he has not yet made a plea for.

Officers responded to a report of a fight around 12 a.m. Wednesday in the Neveln area, according to the police report. Officers found a 2008 Toyota Corolla with a smashed driver’s window with broken glass on the ground. Three witnesses identified Lerum as the person who broke the window.

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One witness reported she and her boyfriend went to get gas around 10 p.m. in her red car, noticed a car following them and went home. She said she stopped her car on 15th Street Southeast, got out and Lerum parked his Honda and got out.

She said she asked Lerum if she knew him and could help him, and he replied to get back in the car, using profanity.

She said she and Lerum were messaging each other over Facebook later and Lerum told her to meet him by Neveln School. She said herself and two others arrived at the 1800 block of E. Oakland Avenue in a black Toyota and saw Lerum driving south on 18th Drive Southeast in a blue 2004 Honda Civic. When the witness and two others arrived at a friend’s house near Neveln School, “within seconds” Lerum came running from the tennis court area and broke the Toyota’s window with a “sword,” or white stick. She said Lerum was yelling, “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s fight!” She reported one of the witnesses got out of the car and told her and the other witness to stay away from Lerum. The first witness said Lerum had three other people with him, and one said they had a gun. When she told them she had called the cops, she said Lerum shouted “Cops are coming!” and got into the Honda, backed up and “smashed into” a red Chevrolet pickup truck, then turned around and drove south on 18th Drive Southeast.

A second witness said Lerum ran to the Toyota and yelled a profane threat, then hit the driver’s window with the object. The witness said when the window was smashed, he was also hit in the head with the “sword,” receiving a cut above his right wrist that required stitches, and he reportedly had blood in his mouth and his lower lip was swollen and bloody.

Officers found Lerum at his home on the 1600 block of Third Avenue Southeast, where they reportedly found him crying and screaming about damage to the rear end of his Honda. Lerum reportedly told officers he was leaving his friend’s home near the airport when he started receiving messages from people, including one of the witnesses, who wanted to fight him and told him to meet them near Neveln School.

Lerum reportedly told them he didn’t want to fight them and drove past Neveln School on his way home because that was the way he “needed to go,” according to the report. Lerum said he was driving past the school and was rear-ended by a four-door passenger car on East Oakland Avenue, and four people got out of the car carrying knives and possibly a gun.

Lerum reported he grabbed a big, wooden stick he had in his car for self-defense because the four wanted to fight him. He said during the confrontation, he broke one of the windows on the other car, started to swing the stick at the people to defend himself from attack, then got back into his car and drove to his home.

Lerum showed officers messages between himself and the first witness, which appeared to show Lerum had instigated the confrontation. There were several large sticks inside the Honda, as well as a black BB gun, which officers took. Officers arrested Lerum for assault, property damage and hit and run. Officers found evidence that the confrontation happened where the Toyota was parked, and found evidence that Lerum hit the truck.

Based on physical evidence and witness statements, officers believed Lerum parked the Honda south of the assault scene and was facing north in front of the truck. When the Toyota arrived, Lerum damaged the driver’s window, then went back to the Honda to flee the scene, backed into the truck and damaged both the truck and the Honda, then went home and called the police, according to the report.

Lerum was previously arrested on Nov. 20 for similar charges of three counts of felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. According to the court complaint, officers spoke with a witness who said Lerum came to the door of the residence and hit another witness with the wooden samurai sword on the shoulder about 11 p.m. at the 300 block of First Avenue Southwest.

Lerum, allegedly struck another person with the sword, and chased another person with the sword.

Another witness who was reportedly watching from an upstairs apartment near the scene saw about 15 people, along with Lerum chasing someone down the road with the sword.

Lerum is next scheduled for court Dec. 31.