STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. — A Ste. Genevieve police officer suffered serious burns early Friday when a man threw a Molotov cocktail at him and his uniform caught on fire, the town’s police chief said.
The officer was taken by medical helicopter to a St. Louis-area hospital after the 1 a.m. attack in the 200 block of St. Jude Drive, on the southern end of Ste. Genevieve. He was identified in court papers as Pete Unverferth, a veteran of the department.
Tyson Paul Heise, 34, was charged with first-degree assault on a special victim and armed criminal action in the attack. Heise was outside the home of his mother and stepfather, holding a bottle filled with flammable liquid when Unverferth arrived to investigate a report that Heise had made threats, according to the probable cause statement.
Police Chief Eric Bennett said Unverferth suffered burns to his arms, legs and torso. He rolled on the ground to try to put out the flames, and an outdoor water faucet helped extinguish the flames.
“As soon as he got there he was met with the suspect who had a lit Molotov cocktail in his hand,” Bennett said.
Unverferth ordered Heise to drop the bottle but he refused, the chief said. Unverferth used his Taser “but it was ineffective,” Bennett said.
Heise tossed the Molotov cocktail at the officer, and the bottle broke on his arm. “It burned his arms pretty badly and his legs and torso,” the chief said. “He had substantial burns.”
The cocktail was made from a bottle of the liquor EverClear and a burning paper towel, according to charging documents.
Unverferth is expected to recover and is conscious and alert, Bennett said.
Heise is being held without bail at the Ste. Genevieve County Jail. There was no lawyer for him listed in court records.
The police department does not have body cameras for its officers, but the patrol cars are equipped with dashboard cameras. However, the camera wasn’t turned on because of the low priority nature of the call.
Ste. Genevieve is about 60 miles south of St. Louis.