Streets Superintendent Faces Charges for 'Teasing' Liberal Colleague with Shotgun

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Poplar Bluff's street superintendent Denis Kearbey is facing a gun charge. - IMAGE VIA BUTLER COUNTY JAIL
  • Image via Butler County Jail
  • Poplar Bluff's street superintendent Denis Kearbey is facing a gun charge.

A city official in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, pumped his shotgun repeatedly in the office to tease a liberal co-worker, according to court documents.

Denis Kearbey, the city's streets superintendent, originally denied bringing the gun to the office, but later told Missouri state troopers he only meant it as a joke, authorities say. He is now facing a felony charge of unlawful use of a weapon.

A city clerk told investigators that Kearbey brought a short-barrel, pump shotgun to the office on September 12 and began waving it around.

"Mr. Kearbey pumped the shotgun multiple times and asked [the clerk] if she was scared," troopers wrote in a probable cause statement.



The woman claimed she was terrified, but she did not tell Kearbey that, troopers say. She later called police, and two troopers questioned Kearbey at his home. The 53-year-old agreed to let them search his city vehicle, where they found a .22-caliber rifle with a suppressor, authorities say. He claimed the city bought him the suppressor to shoot groundhogs, but he couldn't provide any documentation, according to the documents.

Troopers arrested Kearbey. While he was locked up in Butler County jail, they got a search warrant for his house and seized a black, pistol-grip Remington 870 pump shotgun found under his bed, authorities say.

They then returned to the jail and questioned Kearbey.

"Mr. Kearbey stated he did take the firearm into the office and was teasing [the clerk] about being a liberal," troopers wrote of the interview. "Mr. Kearbey stated he pumped the shotgun, but never threatened anybody with it."

Kearbey pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on Monday, and the matter has been bound over for trial. He is out of jail on $25,000 bond. His attorney says nothing he has heard so far about the case meets the legal standard for the felony charge.

"Hell, it's Poplar Bluff, people have guns all the time," attorney Daniel Moore tells the Riverfront Times. "Jacking a pump shotgun is not equal to displaying it in a threatening manner."

Located about two and half hours south of St. Louis, Poplar Bluff is known as "the Gateway to the Ozarks." It has a population of about 17,200 people.

Kearbey is still employed by the city, but he can't work because a court order forbids him from stepping foot on city property. He took over the superintendent's job in 2016 when his old boss was arrested and charged with shooting a woman. That case is still pending.

Moore says his client never pointed the gun or threatened anyone at the office. He says he will know more when prosecutors turn over their evidence as part of discovery process, but he is skeptical of the probable cause statement, because he says such accounts are often "full of hearsay and all sorts of bullshit."

He expects Kearbey will eventually be acquitted at trial.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.