Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo.
A city official in southeast Missouri is facing criminal charges after investigators say he repeatedly pumped a shotgun inside the office to “tease” a liberal coworker.
Denis Kearbey, the streets superintendent for the city of Poplar Bluff, is facing a felony charge of unlawful use of a weapon, according to the Riverfront Times. Out on bond, Kearbey, 53, remains a city employee but cannot work because a court order forbids him from stepping foot on city property.
He pleaded not guilty during a court appearance last week.
The Times reported that state police officials accused Kearbey in court documents of bringing a short-barreled, pump-action shotgun into the office Sept. 12 and waving it around.
“Mr. Kearbey pumped the shotgun multiple times and asked (a city clerk) if she was scared,” state troopers wrote in a probable cause statement.
The woman told investigators that she was terrified but did not tell Kearbey she was scared. She later called law enforcement to report Kearbey’s behavior.
Troopers went to Kearbey’s home, where they questioned him and obtained permission to search his city vehicle. In the vehicle, they found a .22-caliber rifle with a suppressor, the newspaper reported.
Though Kearbey told the investigators that the city bought the suppressor for him to shoot groundhogs, he could not provide proof of that claim, investigators said. The troopers arrested Kearbey for the suppressor and booked him into the Butler County Jail.
While he was jailed, the troopers obtained a search warrant for his house. That search resulted in the seizure of a black, pistol-grip Remington 870 shotgun believed to be used in the crime, the Times reported. The shotgun was found under a bed in the house.
When investigators returned to the jail and continued questioning Kearbey, he admitted taking the shotgun into the office, court documents said.
“Mr. Kearbey stated he did take the firearm into the office and was teasing (the clerk) about being a liberal,” the documents said. “Mr. Kearbey stated he pumped the shotgun, but never threatened anybody with it.”
Kearbey has been the city’s streets superintendent since February 2015, when the previous superintendent was suspended without pay following accusations that he shot a woman during a custody dispute.
The Southeast Missourian reported that Jeremy Grable is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in connection with the shooting, which took place at his home. Poplar Bluff police officers had received a 911 call about the custody dispute prior to the shooting.
The woman, who was shot in the chest, lost a lung but survived. That case is pending.
Kearbey’s attorney, Daniel Moore, told the Times that he does not believe the state’s case meets legal standards to sustain the felony charge against his client. He pointed to the rural nature of Poplar Bluff, which is known as the “Gateway to the Ozarks.”
“Hell, it’s Poplar Bluff. People have guns all the time,” Moore told the newspaper. “Jacking a pump shotgun is not equal to displaying it in a threatening manner.”
Moore said he believes Kearbey will be found not guilty.