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The Asheville Citizens-Times.com
By Jon Ostendorff • May 28, 2009 12:15 AM
SOUTH TOE The wife of a man charged with the attempted murder of a Yancey County sheriff’s deputy has disputed the sheriff’s version of events surrounding the altercation.
Frances Westall said Wednesday that her husband, Ralph Steven Westall, did not fire a shotgun at a woman turning her car around in his driveway, which authorities said was one of the reasons they went to his home to arrest him.
She also said her husband was distraught because of the recent suicide of his son.
In addition to attempted murder, Ralph Westall was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. His bond was set at $100,000, and he was in custody of the state Department of Correction.
Frances Westall said she was sleeping on the couch when deputies used a battering ram to knock open the back door of her house.
She said she woke to loud bangs and flashes, and two officers grabbed her. She said they put her on the floor and handcuffed her before dragging her down the back steps.
“Why didn’t they come to the front door instead of battering the back door?” she said. “The front door wasn’t even locked.”
Deputies inside the house exchanged “several” shots with her husband, according to court papers. He had been sleeping in a back bedroom and fired at officers as they came down the hallway, the papers said.
Deputy Rick Turner was hit in his right arm. He and other deputies returned fire. Ralph Westall eventually put his hands up and was taken into custody after a brief struggle. Turner’s injuries were not life-threatening.
Frances Westall said she was held in a jail cell for 12 hours without being charged. She said she suffered bruises on her arms and head during the raid.
Sheriff Kermit Banks, according to court papers and a written statement his office made late Tuesday, said he decided to use his Special Response Team, which is trained in SWAT tactics, to serve arrest and search warrants at the home on Clear Creek Road because Ralph Westall had fired a gun at someone that day and had fired a gun at his neighbors in “recent months.”
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Banks, in his statement, said deputies have had to accompany EMS workers to the Westall home for fear he would assault them. The sheriff also said Westall has threatened his wife and daughter.
“On occasions Westall has allegedly made threats to family members that he would kill any law enforcement officer who tried to arrest him,” according to the statement.
The sheriff has declined to take questions about what happened. His office did not immediately return messages Wednesday.
Frances Westall disputes those allegations. She said deputies have tried to get her to take out domestic violence papers on her husband in the past, but she has refused because he hasn’t been violent.
“If Ralph wanted to shoot me, I would have been dead a long time ago,” she said.
She also said her husband did not fire a shotgun on Monday.
He did fire a .38-caliber pistol in the air that afternoon to scare off a chicken that was attacking one of her miniature Dachshund dogs, she said.
Frances Westall said that her husband’s son killed himself Friday and that Ralph Westall was distraught.
She also said he is taking a sedative and antidepressants, and likely did not understand that law enforcement officers had entered his home to arrest him on Monday.
Westall said her house is full of bullet holes.
“Our house is ruined,” she said. “I just thought of them dragging him out of here in the state of mind he was in. It is pitiful and inhuman.”