Saturday, September 24, 2016

Man arrested after berating Sheriff Clarke on flight

Milwaukee County sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.

Preston Bluntson 
(Photo: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)

A Milwaukee man was arrested and charged with intoxication and disruptive behavior on Saturday after berating Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. throughout a two-hour flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte, N.C.

Keith Trietley, a spokesman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, confirmed that Preston Bluntson, 36, was arrested and booked by police at around 7:10 p.m. Eastern time. He was being held late Saturday in the Mecklenburg County Jail. Trietley said a police report on the incident was not yet available.

But a passenger on the American Airlines flight, who asked not to be named, said Bluntson talked throughout the plane ride, becoming increasingly loud and obnoxious and directing many of his comments at Clarke, who was on the back of the small plane.

The plane, which left Milwaukee around 4:10 p.m., had about 12 rows on it.

“The guy was very abusive,” the passenger said. "Probably the last 20 minutes it really escalated and focused on Clarke."

According to the passenger, Bluntson, who is African-American, repeatedly used a racial epithet, accused Clarke of “closing our parks” and said the sheriff is “not one of us.”

A number of people tried unsuccessfully to engage Bluntson — who appeared to be drinking throughout the flight — and to get him to calm down but without success, the passenger said. He added that Clarke responded only once, telling the man to “shut up.”

“In all my years flying, I’ve never seen anything like it,” the passenger said.

“The sheriff handled himself extremely well. It could have gotten a lot worse because the guy was not backing down.”

When the plane landed, Clarke held Bluntson down, and a Charlotte police officer then came on board and handcuffed the Milwaukee man, according to the passenger. Three or four other officers then met Bluntson when he left the plane, and Clarke filled out paperwork on the incident.

Clarke, who travels regularly to speaking and media events and to promote the candidacy of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, was apparently on his way to New Hampshire, where he is the featured guest for the Cheshire County Annual Republican Shoot on Sunday.

The event, which is held at the Cheshire Fish & Game Club in Keene, N.H., runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Clarke could not be reached for comment late Saturday. A call to Bluntson’s house was not returned.


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