Man who built stone cairns charged with simple assault
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | July 24,2013
CHRISTIAN AVARD / STAFF PHOTO
Braving swift waters after Monday night's rain, Grant Bercik of Jamaica was back in the Winhall River rebuilding the stone cairns that were knocked down by a Bondville resident.
JAMAICA — A man who built hundreds of stone cairns in remembrance of his dog on the Winhall River in Rawsonville was charged with simple assault after he allegedly punched a man who he thought had knocked them down.
Grant Bercik, 25, of Jamaica approached Kevin Polhemus, 50, of Jamaica as he was cutting wood at his sawmill July 17 on Route 30, according to Trooper Chris Lora of the Vermont State Police. Bercik accused Polhemus of knocking down his cairns, but Mora said Polhemus had nothing to do with the act.
Polhemus told Bercik to leave his property, the trooper said, and Bercik responded by punching him “with a closed fist.” Polhemus suffered minor injuries, Mora added.
According to Bercik, he approached Polhemus because he wanted to know what happened to the cairns. The mill where Polhemus was working was directly across from where the cairns stood.
Bercik said Polhemus got defensive, wouldn't provide him with information, kicked him off the property and pushed him. Bercik said he pushed Polhemus back and Polhemus charged after him with a clenched fist.
Bercik added that he blocked Polhemus' swing and responded with a punch that landed on Polhemus.
Bercik was interviewed Tuesday at the Winhall River where he was rebuilding the cairns he created.
Polhemus declined to comment about the incident.
Mora was unavailable to discuss the claim that Polhemus pushed and tried to assault Bercik.
“I thought there was a stand-your-ground or self-defense law,” Bercik said. “If someone is pushing you, what are you supposed to do? I didn't know you were supposed to run away.”
Bercik said it wasn't until he arrived home that he heard Peter Salo of Bondville was the person who knocked down the cairns. He received several messages from local residents saying that they saw Salo removing them. “I didn't know Salo did it because I hadn't gone home yet,” Bercik said. “I thought (Polhemus) did it. Then I heard my name on the scanner and so I turned myself in to Winhall Police.”
Police charged Bercik with simple assault. He will be arraigned Sept. 17 in Brattleboro criminal court.
Bercik built the stone cairns in memory of his dog, General, who was killed by a truck in Brookline three months ago. He said it was the way he coped with his loss.
Salo confirmed to the Rutland Herald last week that he was responsible for knocking down the cairns. He thought they posed a traffic hazard and were dangerous to Route 30 traffic.
According to local residents, people were pulling over to look at the cairns, take pictures or relax by the side of the river. Many people were upset that the cairns were knocked down and hundreds gathered at the river Saturday to help Bercik rebuild the cairns.
Bercik estimated 300 people took part and was astonished that the cairns meant so much to so many people.
“I really rejoiced in the spirit,” Bercik said. “I really like to show my dedication to my dog and I can show it here. I feel like people like their dogs just like their kids. With this, there are a lot of people who feel the way I do.”
Ken Weaver of Randolph, N.J., has a second home in Jamaica and visited the cairns for the first time Tuesday. He said he was shocked when he learned the cairns were knocked down and he commended Bercik and the community for rebuilding the memorial. “People want to be here because they enjoy what they see,” Weaver said. “There's too much going on in the world right now. I give the guy a lot of credit.”