SPOKANE, Wash. -- Washington State Patrol investigators confirmed early Thursday the man at the center of a bizarre outburst at a Spokane gym grabbed a deputy’s taser.
Court documents said that the Washington State Patrol is also investigating First Degree Assault charges. William Berger, 34, allegedly assaulted two people inside of the South Hill business during his violent episode.
Officials said that Berger's knowledge of law enforcement helped him grab a taser. Berger had previously served as a reserve deputy for Whitman County for a year and had a masters degree in criminal justice from WSU.
"It gave him knowledge of the tactics and training a deputy would receive, and what tactics a deputy would use," said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. "He was able to fight through several of their techniques and ended up with the taser in his hand."
The incident happened last Thursday at Oz Fitness on South Regal in Spokane. Authorities said deputies Shawn Audie and Steve Paynter were the two that responded.
The confrontation with Berger was “significant,” according to authorities. Court documents said that Berger was escorted out of the gym when he removed his shirt and started talking about the end of the world. Berger got control of one of the deputy’s taser but it is unclear if the deputy was actually tased. Court documents confirmed that Berger struck the deputy's vehicle while they tried to calm him down.
Witnesses said Berger became belligerent inside of the gym. He was allegedly lifting weights when he dropped one. He yelled at the weight, started punching equipment, and punched a hole in the wall according to Oz Fitness members. They said the man even threw a towel dispenser and cursed at other customers.
Dep. Paynter was first to arrive on the scene. Berger began striking at his vehicle and took a fighting stance, according to authorities. Paynter then deployed his taser, causing Berger to fall to the ground. Berger then stood up, removed the taser probes and wire. Berger then ran a short distance when he observed Deputy Audie arrive.
Both deputies engaged Berger at which point he continued to be confrontational. Berger was tased two more times and fell to the ground. The taser effect was not long lasting and Berger continued to fight. A deputy was able to place Berger in a lateral vascular restraint but he pulled the deputy’s arm away as they fought.
During the fight, Berger got control of one of the tasers and attempted to use it against one of the deputies.
"You have to remember, there were only two deputies on that scene," Sheriff Knezovich added. "When the deputies tased Mr. Berger and he went down, that was their opportunity to get control of him. They both abandoned their tasers and went hands on."
As the struggle continued the deputy was able to regain control of Berger. Berger stopped resisting, at which time deputies noticed that he had stopped breathing. Deputies sustained cuts and bruises during the struggle.
Deputies and EMS tried providing life saving measures according to deputies at the scene.
He was removed from life support over the weekend according to his family’s attorney. A toxicology report is being done to report whether Berger had any substances in his system when the outburst happened.