Man avoids more serious charges after allegedly letting his 4-year-old son steer truck into tree

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 9:45 pm on Friday, March 08, 2013

Sean Bylsma

STANTON — A Comstock Park man is avoiding more serious charges in Montcalm County after allegedly letting his 4-year-old son drive a vehicle through a field and crash into a tree while the man was drunk.

Sean Bylsma, 34, is being charged with fourth-degree fleeing a police officer and assaulting or resisting or obstructing a police officer, both felonies with possible two-year prison sentences, and open alcohol in a motor vehicle and operating while license suspended, both misdemeanors.

A Montcalm County sheriff’s deputy observed a 1994 Chevrolet Suburban operating with heavy front end damage the night of Feb. 23. Bylsma, who was driving, refused to stop for the deputy. The deputy pursued Bylsma to Bylsma’s mother’s residence on S. Nevins Road in Sidney Township.

According to Montcalm County Sheriff Bill Barnwell, Bylsma told the deputy he was letting his son drive the Suburban through a field when the truck struck a deer. The deputy determined this story to be a lie, as a damaged tree was found where the truck had been driving. The deputy also observed Bylsma throw a beverage cup out of the truck’s window while the deputy was in pursuit. A bottle of vodka was found in Bylsma’s truck.

Bylsma did not cooperate with the deputy’s orders and a fight ensued. The deputy used a Taser on Bylsma. The Tasers struck Bylsma in the nose and lip because he was jumping around so much and were not effective. Both men were rolling around on the ground at one point.

“He was like a roller coaster, up and down,” said Barnwell of Bylsma’s interaction with the deputy. “At point, he started to apologize for his actions.”

A Michigan State Police trooper arrived to assist the deputy. Bylsma was being so combative, the officers decided against giving him a breath test to determine how much alcohol he had been drinking. The officers did not know this decision would later result in more serious charges not being issued against Bylsma.

“The main concern they had was that the guy was so combative at times and so in and out of it, they were concerned they were going to have to fight him all the way to the hospital,” Barnwell said. “It was snowing that night. They were short-staffed. (Bylsma) had blood in his mouth from the accident, so they couldn’t immediately taken a breath test. It was a whole host of circumstances.”

Barnwell said the fact that his office was short-staffed that weekend due to county budget cuts was one of the factors in the decision not to administer a breath test.

“They fought with him for a long period of time,” Barnwell said. “We would have had to send at least three officers with him. Unfortunately, one of the contributing factors was being short-staffed. We don’t have unlimited resources. Could we have muddled through? Perhaps, if we had called in more guys and risked an altercation at the hospital.”

The deputy sustained abrasions to his chin from the altercation.

Bylsma’s son was not injured in the accident, but was crying when the deputy located them. He was turned over to a relative.

According to Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause, based on all the evidence her office received, she charged Bylsma with everything possible.

“We don’t have enough evidence to charge drunk driving and without that charge we are unable to charge operating while intoxicated with a minor less than 16,” she said.

Bylsma has been bound over from 64B District Court to 8th Judicial Circuit Court, where he is scheduled to be arraigned March 28.

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