LSD and a 911 call upend the life of a former Traverse City brewer
By Patrick Sullivan | Feb. 5, 2018
Dustin Jones and Casey Mutter learned a valuable lesson last October: If you’re freaking out on acid, don’t call police.
That’s what Mutter did Oct. 18 when Jones needed to be brought down from a drug-induced panic attack at the home they share in Long Lake Township. She tried to call his mother, his sister, and friends, but no one was picking up at 2:30am on a Wednesday.
Desperate to help Jones, she called 911.
Looking back now, Mutter regrets her decision: “Don’t ever call the cops when you’re on LSD, because they don’t know how to handle the situation,” she said.
“They just assumed the absolute worst and just decided immediately that they had to take total physical control,” Jones said.
Responders included two state police troopers and two paramedics. The meeting did not go well. It ended violently for Jones, who would spend days in the hospital and then in jail.
A CONFLICT SET IN MOTION
Jones, 33, formerly the co-owner and head brewer at Brewery Ferment in Traverse City, was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, felony firearm, and two counts of resisting and obstructing police.
Following a jury trial in January, he was acquitted of the two most serious charges, but found guilty of the obstruction charges, which carry up to two years in prison. Jones’ lawyer, Craig Elhart, called the verdict a good result and said he expected sentencing guidelines would call for zero to six months in jail when Jones is sentenced Feb. 13. If he would have been convicted on all counts, he could have spent years in prison.
Jones is still rattled by the encounter, which began after he and his girlfriend drank some alcohol and took LSD.
“I’m sure the situation could have been handled on everyone’s part a little bit better,” Jones said days after the trial.
Jones admits he must have been a strange sight when police arrived that morning — he wore jeans, he was shirtless, his hair was long, and he had a wild, bushy beard. He’s since trimmed his hair and beard. According to police testimony, he was pacing on his porch as the troopers approached. Jones said he was inside when they knocked on his door.
Jones said he believes officers were determined from the outset to take him down.
“They showed up, and they were clearly already kind of angry,” he said. “They had already made up their minds how they were going to handle this situation.”
Meanwhile, Mutter had walked out to meet the responders and said she felt helpless as they approached her house. She said she was asked to help talk Jones down, but she said she didn’t have time.
Jones said he wanted Mutter to come inside and for the police to go away, but by that point, the police were not going to go away.
“They told me, ‘Go back to him and, whatever you do, don’t go inside,’ and I was really confused,” Mutter said. “It was sad, because in the moment, I knew there was nothing I could do, and they were just going to go in.”
GOING INTO THE HOUSE
When Mutter called 911, she asked for help and told the dispatcher she feared Jones was going to harm himself. Dispatchers determined police and paramedics needed to respond.
The troopers, Travis Peterson and Michael West, were 12 miles away, near Chum’s Corners, when they got the call; they drove at the speed limit to the home because there was no indication someone’s life or safety was immediately in danger, Peterson testified at Jones’ preliminary hearing.
Peterson said they were called to respond to an “out-of-control man” and that the female caller had left the house and was a quarter mile away as they approached.
Peterson said he ran into Mutter, who told him that she’d never seen her boyfriend act this way. As the officers got closer to the house, he said they saw Jones pacing in and out, screaming for his girlfriend, or his mother, or his cat, Mr. Cheeks.
“We were telling him, ‘Hey, we’re here to help you. Casey’s here to help you. We just want to help you. You need medical attention. Obviously something’s not right,’” Peterson testified.
Jones did not want help, Peterson said. Jones’ response, he said, was “gibberish.”
The confrontation escalated after the troopers and one of the paramedics agreed that Jones needed to be sedated and taken into protective custody. That meant they had to move toward the house.
As Peterson approached, Jones got even more agitated and screamed, “Who the f--- are you?” while he pointed his finger at the trooper.
Jones backed up, and Peterson and West followed him inside. There was a knife on the counter and a pair of scissors on the floor in the kitchen. Although Jones didn’t reach toward the potential weapons, they were at hand, and the troopers testified that their presence increased tensions.
SOMEHOW, A GUN GETS LOOSE
West testified at the preliminary hearing that leading up to the violence, Jones’ behavior was bizarre. At one point, as West looked in through a window, Jones opened a can of beer and poured it into Mr. Cheek’s food dish.
West said Peterson moved in and engaged Jones, attempting to place him under arrest, and Jones fought back, kicking and wrestling with what Peterson would describe as “superhuman strength.”
As the struggle progressed, West said, he had a grip on one side of Jones and Peterson had a grip on the other, but they couldn’t bring him down. All the while, West said, Jones growled.
Jones is a big guy, but not a really big guy — he’s six feet tall and weighs 170 pounds, according to court records. Nonetheless, perhaps on account of the drugs, he proved an extreme challenge to two well-trained and strong young officers, both officers testified.
The troopers and the EMTs also testified that, during the encounter, Peterson’s backup weapon, a 9mm handgun he kept strapped in an ankle holster, somehow fell to the ground. While Jones was on the ground, they said, he picked it up and raised it, causing Peterson to stomp Jones’ arm, causing the weapon to fire and the bullet to lodge in the sole of Peterson’s boot.
Peterson would only discover where the bullet ended up hours later.
West testified at the preliminary hearing that he went into high alert when he heard the gunshot, not knowing where it had come from. He checked the two handguns he carried and found them secure.
He also testified that he reached for his handgun and considered using fatal force against Jones, but decided against it only because Peterson and Jones were wrapped up.
“I didn’t want my partner to potentially be effected by me discharging my firearm into Mr. Jones,” West testified.
As the struggle continued and some space opened up between Peterson and Jones, West reached for his gun, ready to take a shot. Both Peterson and West testified that Peterson saw this and told West to draw his Taser instead.
West re-holstered his gun and pulled his Taser, aimed it, and fired at Jones’ bare back, hitting him between his shoulder blades.
“The Taser had zero effect on him,” Peterson testified.
With Jones still thrashing around, Peterson determined that he needed to subdue Jones by knocking him out, and he proceeded to kick him three or four times at a pressure point between his nose and upper lip, finally causing him to lose consciousness, he testified.
Jones was then handcuffed; a paramedic gave him a shot of ketamine, a powerful sedative; and then he was taken to the hospital. Peterson and West suffered no injuries.
“SUPERHUMAN” AND THE BULLET
Jones said he remembers what happened differently than the officers.
He said he doesn’t believe a gun was fired during the struggle.
“When I first found out that this was the story they were going with, it just blew my mind,” Jones said.
Jones said that at the trial, the fact that he was on LSD was used to discredit his testimony. Despite the adverse affects the drug had on him, he said, the drug didn’t make him cloudy, and he insists his memory of what happened is clear.
Both Jones and Mutter, who was outside, feet away from the house, said they never heard a gunshot.
Mutter said that after Jones was taken away in an ambulance, police searched the home for hours looking for a bullet, but they found nothing.
Jones and Mutter said they can’t understand how Peterson could have been shot in his boot and then walked around for hours with a bullet in his sole and not known about it.
Jones also disputes that he exhibited “superhuman strength” during the melee. He said he didn’t fight back, though his body reacted to the attack, and he assumed defensive positions.
“They had to say something, because there was two of them, and they each weigh at least 200 pounds,” Jones said.
Jones said he also thought it was strange to hear officers testify that he was seemingly not experiencing any pain in response to the all-out physical attack. Jones said he might have been in shock, but he was certainly feeling pain.
“From my perspective, it was incredibly painful,” Jones said. “I mean, I have never experienced pain like that in my life.”
“GO HOME UNINJURED AND ALIVE”
Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Robert Cooney and state police F/Lt. Frank Keck defended the troopers’ account of what happened.
Cooney said he reviewed the actions of the officers and determined that they did what they were trained to do. He said that was backed up by the verdict.
“I think what [the verdict] showed is that the jury believed the officers, number one, because they convicted on the [resisting and obstructing] charges,” Cooney said.
He said he believes jurors must have determined that Jones’ handled the handgun, and that he fired it in a “reactionary” rather then intentional manner.
“First of all, there were two medical personnel in the room where this occurred who were very shocked,” he said. “They were very surprised by how out of control Dustin Jones was. … These are folks that have been to other situations where people tend to get out of control, and this was something out of the ordinary.”
The medical responders thought the officers’ reaction to Jones was appropriate given the circumstances, Cooney said.
Cooney said the kicks to Jones’ face sound disturbing, but they were exactly what was called for at that time, according to police training.
“The officers were acting in the manner in which they were trained,” he said. “The kicking that occurred was the most disturbing [event], but that is a technique, the inter-orbital kicking, that is part of the officers’ training to subdue a person where they are in a situation that involves possible risk of serious injury or death.”
Cooney noted that the officers showed restraint by not using their handguns.
“At the end of the day, these officers are just like you and me. They want to go home uninjured and alive to their families,” Cooney said.
Keck said an appropriate amount of force was used, given the circumstances.
“They followed our policies and procedures,” he said.
He said that the verdict demonstrated that jurors considered the actions of the troopers appropriate.
Elhart said he thought the evidence showed that Jones might have been in need of help and that he was extremely excited when police arrived, but he was not aggressive toward the police. The police officers, on the other hand, were extremely aggressive, he said.
“They testified that they kicked him so hard and so often that their legs fatigued, and they couldn’t kick anymore,” Elhart said.
LSD AND THE FUTURE
Jones still believes in the spiritual power of LSD. He said the experience didn’t sour him to a drug he believes has mind-expanding benefits. He said in the future he would not take it indoors or at night.
While the experience did not damage his relationship with Mutter, it did, at least for now, end his relationship with his sister, Kirsten Jones, with whom he launched Brewery Ferment on Union Street in 2012. Jones said after he was arrested, his sister locked him out of the business and hasn’t talked to him since.
Kirsten Jones said tension between her and her brother had been building for months before Jones’ arrest; she claims his life was disintegrating amid heavy drug use, erratic behavior, and poor work performance.
Jones said she and her head of brewing operations, Bryan Snyder, are attempting to make a fresh start at the brewery and are trying to repair the damage done to the business’s reputation.
“I wish him the best, but I just don’t think the brewery is the right place for him right now,” she said.