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Berlin officer dragged by car saves herself, woman; pushes driver out, hits brakes within feet of pole

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Somerset County police officer responding to a report of domestic violence on Sunday had to stop the alleged victim's moving vehicle as she tried to drive away.

On Tuesday, Berlin Borough police Officer Michelle Piscitella, 36, took the incident in stride as she spoke from her office.

“It was more frightening than anything else. I'm perfectly fine,” she said.

Tammy Berkey, 54, of 569 Pike St., Meadow Lands, was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and driving under the influence over the 6:21 p.m. incident with her brother.

Berkey was driving away as Piscitella arrived, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed with Meyersdale District Judge Douglas Bell. Piscitella saw blood on Berkey's face and hands.

She told Berkey paramedics were on the way and to remain seated because of her apparent head injury.

Berkey smelled of alcohol, her eyes were bloodshot and glassy, and her speech was slurred, Piscitella said in the affidavit.

The woman put her car in reverse and attempted to drive away. As Piscitella yelled: “Stop! Berlin Police!,” Berkey drove straight at her, forcing Piscitella to jump out of the way, the officer wrote.

Piscitella placed her hand on the car window and opened the door as the vehicle was moving. She grabbed the steering wheel while Berkey was driving.

Berkey slammed on the brakes and Piscitella pulled her from the vehicle. As the car continued moving toward a utility pole, Piscitella jumped into the driver's seat head-first and pulled the gear shift into park, the affidavit said.

“The car stopped a few feet shy of the utility pole. Otherwise, we probably would not be talking right now,” Piscitella said.

Berkey tried to pull away as Piscitella handcuffed her and placed her under arrest.

The woman was taken to a hospital, where her blood-alcohol level was determined to be 0.28 percent — more than three times the legal threshold for 0.8 percent intoxication level in Pennsylvania,.

Berkey was released on $25,000 unsecured bond.

Piscitella, a police officer for 11 years who has been with the Berlin department for two years, said only one officer is on duty at a time in the borough.

“At minimum, our backup is 12 miles away. It can be frightening at times. You have to love your job,” she said.

On Monday, Piscitella charged Berkey's brother, Craig Foy, 52, of Berlin with aggravated assault, simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment.

Foy was arraigned before Bell and placed in the county prison in lieu of $5,000 bond.

Berkey and Foy face preliminary hearings March 14 before Bell.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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