STUART — Two Guthrie County deputies suffered gunshot wounds and a third suffered gunpowder burns when a bullet breezed past his head as they, along with a Stuart police officer, were serving outstanding felony warrants last Thursday evening at an apartment complex on the southwest side of Stuart.
All three were taken to MercyOne in Des Moines for treatment of their injuries. All three since have been released from the hospital.
Deputies Steven Henry and Jim Mink suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds. Henry was shot in the leg and Mink was shot in the back. He was airlifted to the hospital. Deputy Kent Gries suffered gunpowder burns.
The three, along with Stuart police officer Tyler DeFrancisco, who was not injured, were serving warrants for the arrest of Randall Comly, 52, at an apartment on the southwest side of Stuart about 10:40 p.m. last Thursday. After knocking on the door of the apartment, which was answered by another occupant, they entered and began searching for Comly. He opened fire on the officers. They returned fire. Comly suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds and is recuperating at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, after which he’ll be charged in the shooting.
Comly is wanted on several felonies. Most recently, a warrant was issued for his arrest for allegedly setting fire to his girlfriend’s camper. He faces an arson charge on that incident.
Over the years he’s had multiple drug charges and recently was arrested in August for an attempted burglary in Casey. In that instance, deputies had to use force to apprehend Comly.
More than 50 police officers, deputies, and troopers responded to the report of shots fired, according to an Iowa Department of Public Safety news release issued Monday. Arriving officers were able to secure the area, evacuate neighbors, negotiate a peaceful ending to the incident and take Comly into custody.
The injured deputies are on leave, as is standard procedure, and soon will return to service.
Dallas, Greene, Adair and Audubon sheriffs and others have offered deputies to fill in during the time the three officers are on leave. In fact, Greene County sent two deputies last Friday morning to help in Guthrie County.
“I’ll never forget all the law enforcement that showed up in Stuart,” Guthrie County Sheriff Marty Arganbright said. “Des Moines police even met with and supplied pizza to Guthrie County personnel at the hospital, including a DMPD detective who lives in Casey.”
Stuart police got a tip Comly was at Summit Street Apartments. Since Guthrie County deputies had found Comly dangerous during an August arrest, they requested assistance.
“It was good (the Stuart policeman) had backup,” Arganbright said, noting the lone policeman could have been killed. Arganbright added deputy Kent Gries ducked, or he could have been killed as well.
Charges will be filed in Adair County for the incident.
A fundraiser pancake breakfast was held in Bagley on Sunday.
“Maybe we need to buy shields with the proceeds,” Arganbright said.
This is the second recent shooting involving a Guthrie County law enforcement person. Last year, Panora Police officer Rock Armstrong fatally shot a man in self-defense at an apartment building in Panora.
“With meth, drugs and mental health issues, it’s getting worse,” Arganbright said.
Stuart city officials have said criminal activity at the apartment complex on South 7th Street has troubled them for some time, and they are looking into ways to correct the problem.
Stuart Mayor Dick Cook told KCCI television he was aware of a number of calls police had responded to that address in recent times. Cook pledged last Friday to make changes to this situation.
“I figured it was coming eventually. It’s unfortunate that it did,” Cook said. “We need to do more screening on who are the tenants out there, and more background checks for sure.”
Stuart police returned to the same apartment on Saturday, where they found Comly’s daughter hiding. Police responded to a report that three people were breaking into the apartment. Two men caught leaving the apartment told police they were there to collect items for a friend. Officers searched the apartment and found Amanda Comly hiding in a back room. Amanda Comly was wanted on a statewide extraditable warrant, according to a KCCI report. She was taken into custody without incident.