Independence Twp. wife, husband charged with felonious assault
By Jim Newell
A wife and husband from Independence Township have been charged with felonious assault after pulling guns on a Pontiac woman and her daughters in a Chipotle restaurant parking lot in Orion Township on July 1.
A video of the confrontation between the Independence Township couple, who are white, and a Pontiac mother and her three daughters, who are black, went viral and has made national news.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard held a press conference July 2 and laid out the timeline of the incident, saying the altercation started after one person bumped another at the fast food eatery.
The confrontation began shortly before 6 p.m. at the Chipotle Mexican Grill on S. Baldwin Road across from the Baldwin Commons shopping center.
While Bouchard said his department would not release the names of the couple until they had been arraigned, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office charged Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, each with one count of felonious assault, a four-year felony..
The couple was arraigned Thursday at the 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills, each receiving a $50,000 personal bond.
The Wuestenberg’s each possessed one loaded firearm and had CPLs (Concealed Pistol Licenses), Bouchard said. Jillian Wuestenberg had a Springfield pistol and Eric Wuestenberg had a Sig Sauer handgun.
“As part of the bond conditions, they must turn over all firearms, not engage in any assaultive behavior, and may not leave the state,” sheriff’s officials said.
According to an account of the incident, Takelia Shanee Hill and her daughters were entering the restaurant when Jillian Wuestenberg, who was leaving the eatery, allegedly bumped Hill’s 15-year-old daughter.
Hill’s daughter then reportedly asked for an apology and Hill said Wuestenberg began yelling at the girl, setting off the exchange.
Bouchard said both parties had different interpretations of how the argument began, which had not been recorded.
After the incident, Hill posted on her Facebook page at 7:25 p.m. July 1 the following statement: “So this is America….I’ve never in my life had a gun pulled out on me let alone two and while I had my three daughters I’ve never felt so helpless in my life I’m so shaken up.”
A one-minute video of the incident was posted on Twitter and went viral.
A longer, 3-minute, 8-second video of the confrontation, which Bouchard played during his news conference, shows a profanity-laden argument between Hill and Wuestenberg.
A woman off camera can repeatedly be heard calling Wuestenberg “ignorant” and “racist” while Hill confronts Wuestenberg and demands to know why she “violated” a 15-year-old.
“You’re blocking me from getting to my car,” Wuestenberg says at one point. Her husband then helps her get into passenger seat of the Chrysler Pacifica.
As Jillian Wuestenberg tries to get into her vehicle, Hill calls her “a dumb— b—-.”
Hill also points at a man in the video, saying, “Yeah, I said it. You say something and I’ll beat your white (expletive), too.”
Hill and her daughter then urge Eric Wuestenberg to “do something.”
“Who the (expletive) do you think you guys are?” Eric Wuestenberg says.
Hill’s daughter then says, “You’re very racist and ignorant” to the man as he begins walking toward the driver side car door.
“You cannot just walk around calling white people racist,” Jillian Wuestenberg says as she sits in her SUV with the window down, continuing the exchange. “I care about you and I’m sorry if you had an incident that someone made you feel like that. No one is racist. I’m sorry if you have something like that happen,” the woman says and then rolls up her window.
“Why would you bump her?” Hill yells repeatedly.
As the SUV begins to back out of the parking spot, Hill, who is behind the vehicle looking at the SUVs license plate, hits the vehicle with her hand.
The SUV then stops and Jillian Wuestenberg exits the vehicle with a pistol in her hands and points it directly at Hill, who accuses the Wuestenberg’s of trying to run her over.
Jillian Wuestenberg then cocks the gun and tells Hill to “Get the (expletive) away” and says, “Call the cops right now, call them” to her husband.
After a continued verbal exchange between the two parties, the Wuestenberg’s then get back in their vehicle and driveaway, with the Hill family members saying “Call the police.”
Timeline of the 911 calls:
Bouchard said there were six 911 calls, with the first call coming in at 5:59 p.m. from the Independence Twp. couple, who had left the Chipotle restaurant and driven to a nearby parking lot. In the call, Wuestenberg says she felt threatened.
There were four more calls over the next few minutes from bystanders, all of whom told 911 there was a woman in the Chipotle parking lot with a gun.
A sixth caller told 911 dispatch that he was from Detroit, saying “My daughter’s there. I’m trying to get there now.” The man also urged authorities to get to the restaurant.
Bouchard said deputies were given a description of the woman with the gun, the vehicle and their location. When deputies arrived, they ordered Wuestenberg out of the SUV, put her in handcuffs, secured the weapons and detained the Wuestenberg’s.
“Investigators fanned out and talked to anyone who was there or who had information,” Bouchard said. “We’re the fact finders. I always tell our folks, let the facts go where they go. And then it’s up to the prosecutor to make charging decisions.
“Everything that we learned we presented to the prosecutor, in terms of provocation, or any of that, that’s going go to be up to the prosecutor,” Bouchard said.
“And then the prosecutor made the determination of what to charge,” Bouchard said, also telling reporters, “If there weren’t a weapon and it was all finger-pointing it wouldn’t have been a felonious assault.”
Area officials also weighed in on the altercation.
Oakland County Executive David Coulter released a statement on Thursday regarding the July 1 incident, calling it “unacceptable” and saying he expects charges.
“I am deeply disturbed by an incident last night where a woman pointed a cocked gun at another woman during an argument. This behavior is unacceptable. I wholly expect the prosecutor to bring charges that reflect the severity of the incident,” Coulter said.
State Senator Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) represents Michigan’s 12th District, which includes Orion Township, also condemned the incident.
“There is nothing acceptable about what happened in Orion Township last night at the Chipotle. It is abhorrent to think that some in this country have such a sense of self-righteousness and entitlement that the idea of pulling a gun out on an unarmed child and her mother is okay. It is not, and I condemn anyone who thinks otherwise,” Bayer said. “My heart goes out to Ms. Hill and her daughters, who may now forever be traumatized by this experience.
“Michigan needs commonsense gun reform, and we need it now. People should feel safe going about their day and not have to worry about having a gun pulled on them during a conflict. This incident clearly shows we have much work to do because this is not how we should be treating each other,” Bayer said.
Bouchard told reporters during the news conference that he urges people to stay out of these types of confrontations.
“My suggestion to friends and family is that if you can avoid a confrontation, do so at all opportunity. Because nothing is worth escalating it (a confrontation) to where somebody gets hurt or killed. It’s just not,” Bouchard said.