MESA COUNTY, Colo. — In an incident that has been described as everything from comical to life threatening by the involved parties, the arrest of Nathen Channing this week might also be described as timely.
Channing, a 27-year-old Fruitvale resident, was taken into custody on Sunday night for pointing a banana at a pair of Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies, both of whom initially believed the piece of fruit was a handgun.
The arrest came a day before a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who classified Michael Brown as menacing before he shot and killed him — a classification that has been widely criticized.
The same sort of criticism might be levied at the pair of Mesa County deputies who mistook a banana for a handgun. Then again, there are plenty of others who would say Channing got exactly what he deserved for antagonizing a pair of law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis.
The two involved Mesa County deputies were identified as Joshua Bunch and Donald Love, both of whom were identified as victims in the case against Channing, who was arrested on two counts of felony menacing.
In an arrest affidavit, Bunch wrote that he was driving northbound over the 29 Road bridge just north of D Road in unincorporated Mesa County, which is just east of Grand Junction, when he noticed Channing walking on the sidewalk. Eventually, Bunch wrote, Channing “reached into the left side of his coat and pulled out a yellow object, pointing it into the air then in my direction as I approached him.”
“Fearing it was a weapon,” Bunch wrote that he sped off. And knowing Love was traveling behind him, Bunch said he radioed his fellow deputy to warn him. As he returned to the area, Bunch wrote he witnessed Channing point the same object at Love.
As Love got out of his vehicle and approached Channing, Bunch wrote his fellow deputy said he “observed what appeared to be a yellow tube with a black center” and also stated he “thought it was a gun.”
“Deputy Love stated he was in fear for his life at this point and was in the process of pulling out his handgun when Nathen yelled, ‘It’s a banana!'” Bunch wrote.
In describing his own misinterpretation of the object, Bunch wrote that “based on training and experience, I have seen handguns in many shapes and colors and perceived this to be a handgun.”
After identifying the object as harmless, the two deputies approached Channing, asking him to explain his actions.
“Nathen stated he does a lot of ‘YouTube’ and thought it would be a ‘funny joke,'” Bunch wrote. “Nathen explained he did it to a friend who was also driving in the area and his friend thought it was funny.”
Noticing no cameras in the area, Bunch wrote that he pressed Channing for details about whether he was going to post video of the incident on YouTube. At that point Channing admitted this was a “‘trial run’ of the joke,” and that he was not recording it, according to the affidavit.
“Nathen’s only explanation for pointing the banana at law enforcement was it was a joke,” Bunch wrote. “He thought it would, ‘lighten the holiday spirit.'”
When Bunch explained that to Channing that he wasn’t laughing, and that “these matters are taken very seriously,” Channing apologized for the incident and admitted he “may have taken the joke too far,” according to the affidavit.
Apparently deeming his apology as insufficient after discussing the incident further, the deputies placed Channing under arrest, with Bunch writing “Nathen, by physical action, knowingly placed Deputy Love and I in imminent fear by use of an article fashioned in the manner to cause us to reasonably believe it was a deadly weapon.”
If convicted of the charges detailed in his arrest affidavit, Channing could receive one to three years in prison and a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000.