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Bartelt guilty, faces 18 years for ASU scare

2 threat charges stick; he’s innocent of 5 assault counts by Kenneth Heard | August 27, 2016 at 5:31 a.m.
Brad Bartelt

JONESBORO -- Brad Kenneth Bartelt is guilty of making a terroristic threat and terroristic threatening after driving onto the Arkansas State University campus with a shotgun and a propane tank and holding police at bay for over an hour in December, Craighead County Circuit Court jurors decided Friday.


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Bartelt, 48, of Jonesboro was sentenced to 18 years for making a terroristic threat and six years for terroristic threatening. Making a terroristic threat is the charge for making threats to entities such as governmental agencies or universities. Terroristic threatening is the charge for threatening individuals.

Bartelt's sentences will run concurrently, Circuit Judge Tommy Fowler ruled.

The jury of six men and six women found Bartelt innocent of five counts of aggravated assault.

Jurors took two hours and 37 minutes to render the verdicts and an hour to determine the sentencing.

"We put this in the hands of 12 citizens who represented the community, and they decided what the community thinks is fair," said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Grant DeProw of Jonesboro.

"The evidence was overwhelming," the deputy prosecutor said. "If the jury didn't convict, they'd have had to reach into some well of animosity."

Chet Dunlap of Trumann, Bartelt's attorney, did not speak with reporters after the sentencing was read and left the courthouse. Bartelt also did not speak as he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.

DeProw said Bartelt could be released from the Arkansas Department of Correction in 4½ years if he is a "model prisoner."

Bartelt testified during his five-day trial that he was frustrated by his inability to receive disability benefits after he was injured while enrolled in a truck-driving course on ASU's campus in Newport. He said he decided to kill himself on ASU's Jonesboro campus Dec. 10 to draw attention to his plight and "get my story out."

During testimony Thursday, Bartelt said he was critically injured in 2012 when a student driver at the truck-driving course struck a barrel and it became trapped underneath a tractor-trailer. As Bartelt wrestled with the barrel to dislodge it, the driver moved forward, pinning Bartelt beneath the truck's rear axle.

Bartelt was dragged about 20 feet and critically injured. He was treated for 28 days at a Memphis hospital, where he underwent several surgeries for broken bones and a lacerated lung and liver.

ASU-Newport administrators first told Bartelt they would pay for his medical expenses but later recanted. Bartelt sued and eventually won a settlement of $787,000. Bartelt said the money went to pay for surgeries, subsequent medical care and his attorneys.

He testified he was denied Social Security benefits after a Little Rock lawyer "lied 22 times" about his case.

His frustration boiled over, and he said that on Dec. 10 he decided to kill himself and headed to ASU's campus near his Hall Street home in Jonesboro.

Police said Bartelt drove his green Chevrolet truck onto the campus and around barricades on Caraway Road about 1 p.m. He then pulled onto a grassy area on the east side of the Carl R. Reng Student Union center, where he ran out of gasoline.

ASU students testified during the trial that Bartelt warned them to leave the area and said he didn't want to hurt them. He told them it was "personal."

Bartelt called a Jonesboro 911 dispatcher and told her he had a 12-gauge shotgun with one shell in it, a propane tank in the bed of his truck and a 5-gallon gasoline can.

Prosecutors said those were the ingredients of a bomb Bartelt thought about using. At times, police video of the standoff showed, Bartelt pointed his shotgun at the propane tank and threatened to shoot it.

He was arrested after holding police at bay on the lawn of the student union center for about an hour and a half. He did not fire his weapon.

Bartelt testified Wednesday that he notified police of the items so they wouldn't think he was going to use them as an explosive, but rather just advise officers they were in his truck.

Dunlap contended that ASU administrators overreacted when they issued an active-shooter alert, which caused undue panic on campus.

He said four ASU police officers were attending a closed training seminar with scores of other law enforcement officials about an active shooter on a campus when Bartelt entered the Jonesboro campus.

The seminar, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, created a scenario of a shooter on a campus and presented ideas on how officers would stop the threat.

It also fueled the officers' desire to quickly issue an active-shooter alert before assessing the situation and realizing Bartelt had not fired his shotgun, Dunlap said..

ASU should have issued an "armed intruder" alert, he said, rather than the most severe alert the campus could activate.

In his closing statement Friday, Dunlap said Bartelt was a scapegoat for the university's mistake.

"CNN had breaking news that they had an active shooter at ASU," Dunlap said. "It created a firestorm of panic.

"There had not been a shot fired and they realized ASU-Jonesboro would be a laughingstock," he said.

"ASU police appeared to be Keystone Kops. They let this thing get out of hand. So they said, 'If we can't lower the embarrassment, let's bring Brad Bartelt up to the level of the most serious alert going out.'"

He said Bartelt was charged "for no other reason than ASU doesn't want to lose face."

In his closing, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington scoffed at Dunlap's claim.

"We might as well say the prosecutor's office was involved in this vast conspiracy against Brad Bartelt as well," he said.

Bartelt, dressed in a black shirt and tan pants, stood quietly Friday while the verdict was read and looked back toward his mother, Loretta Johnson of Mountain Home, who sat in the courtroom. He whispered, "I love you," to her as he walked past her after the verdict.

Johnson testified about her son during the sentencing phase of the trial, saying Bartelt had "never been bad" before.

"He was different after the accident," she said.

Johnson said Bartelt often took in stray animals and gave friends money and helped them whenever they were in need.

"What he did [at ASU] was wrong," Johnson told jurors.

"He had been through a lot. He lost a lot. Just put yourself in his place."

DeProw said Friday's verdict sent a message.

"The main point all along is that we wanted to discourage others from thinking that they would be rewarded for brash acts that publicize their personal drama," he said.

"We are satisfied."

A Section on 08/27/2016

Print Headline: Bartelt guilty, faces 18 years for ASU scare


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