‘OUT OF CONTROL’: Man’s abusive frenzy at scene of house fire
A SOUTHERN Downs man has blamed a combination of Xanax and booze for an “out of control” assault on first responders at the scene of a roaring house fire.
The house on Toowoomba-Karara Rd at Leyburn, where Luke Nathen Churchward was meant to be staying with friends, was set alight by a tipped-over candle at about 9.30pm on April 22.
The Warwick Magistrates Court heard the 48-year-old became “belligerent and rude” towards emergency services as they arrived, even the members of the Leyburn RFS he considered friends.
Police prosecutor Ken Wiggan said the torrent of abuse prompted police to try to escort Churchward from the scene, but it escalatated the Leyburn man’s frenzy.
Sergeant Wiggan told the court the 48-year-old made fists at and threatened officers until he was tackled to the ground, where he continued struggling kneeing one policeman in the face.
Churchward continued his verbal tirade against police while handcuffed in a police car, violently kicking the windows.
He was eventually subdued with capsicum spray.
Sgt Wiggan said Churchward was “totally out of control”, but acknowledged it seemed out of character given his minimal criminal history.
According to defence lawyer Utz Wellner, his client’s night went awry when he took what he believed was a sleeping tablet after a few drinks with friends.
Mr Wellner said later testing revealed the drug to be Xanax, usually prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders, which when combined with alcohol can cause “heightened aggression”.
He added Churchward was also grieving and battling mental demons at the time, having lost his sister to cancer only weeks prior to the offending.
Acting magistrate Rob Turra said he was confident the 48-year-old would not appear before the courts again, given his “clear remorse” and the role intoxication played in his offending.
Churchward pleaded guilty to two counts of obstructing police and one count each of assaulting police, obstructing persons performing a service, and threatening violence in the night.
He was fined $500 and no conviction was recorded.
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