Threat, Assault On Police Gets Teacher Arrested

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A middle school teacher on administrative leave was arrested Tuesday evening after reportedly threatening the school’s principal and then assaulting officers at his home.

Social studies teacher Russell Edward Graham, 49, was arrested after Rim Country Middle School Principal Gary Witherspoon called police to report that Graham had threatened him with physical assault over the telephone around 4:20 p.m., said Payson Police Chief Don Engler.

Reportedly, Graham called the Payson Unified School District Office because he was upset about being on administrative leave and had spoken with Witherspoon at which time he threatened him physically, Engler said.

Superintendent Casey O’Brien said Graham was on home assignment prior to the incident pending the outcome of an unrelated investigation. Because that incident is still under investigation, O’Brien said he could not comment on it.

“What I can say is that there can be various reasons for placing an employee on home assignment. An allegation of employee misconduct could be one reason,” O’Brien said. “Home assignment is not discipline; rather it is for the protection of any potential victim, as well as for the protection of the employee so, if required, a complete an unbiased investigation can occur.”

After police received the call from Witherspoon, they went to Graham’s home in the 900 Block of Mud Springs Road, but Graham was not at home, so they searched the surrounding area.

Around 6 p.m., Graham came home and officers met with him. After interviewing Graham, officers attempted to arrest him.

When they went to place him under arrest, Graham reportedly struck an officer several times in the face, kicked another and then continued to resist arrest.

Once officers had Graham under arrest and placed into a patrol vehicle, police charged him with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and threatening or intimidating behavior.

O’Brien said Graham remains on home assignment and “the district is cooperating fully with the Payson Police Department in their investigation. Any final decision regarding Mr. Graham’s status with the district will not be made until the full investigation is completed.”

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